Gambling revenue in China's Macau province skyrocketed during the second quarter by 50 percent to $2.45 billion from the comparable year-earlier period, according to figures released this week.
In the first half of the year, the tiny enclave's gambling revenue rose 47.5 percent to $4.7 billion in the same period last year, according to the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
Stock market analysts had expected new casinos and a rise in the number of tourists from mainland China to Macau would boost the enclave's casino gambling revenue, but the revenue rise came as a massive surprise even to Wall Street. Foreign travelers are going there too, experts said.
What's more, some of the Las Vegas gambling industry's biggest names — Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Mirage Inc. and Wynn Resorts Ltd. — have begun building huge casino and resort projects in the city on China's southeastern coast, a former colony of Portugal.
These casinos hope to generate demand for gambling among mainland Chinese tourists, who travel to Macau, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. The territory returned to Chinese rule in 1999, just two years after Hong Kong was returned by the British, who conquered the territory during the Opium Wars.
A peninsula and two islands, Macau is located just 35 miles west of Hong Kong.
The casino regulator released the figures to reporters electronically earlier this week.
Macau reported 22 million visitors last year, a 17 per cent surge from 2005 that propelled the local economy to expand by the same amount.
The growth is probably going to continue apace. Playboy Enterprises plans to open a 3716sq m complex, including gaming facilities and bunny-suited waitresses, and the site will be Asia's first Playboy Club since the last one closed in Manila 16 years ago.
"I can't think of a more exciting market to make a bet on than Macau," Christie Hefner, Playboy chief executive officer and daughter of the company's founder, said.
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