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Casino Firms Bet on Asia

9 Feb 2006

SINGAPORE -- As reported by Reuters: "…Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, once described the ethnic Chinese, who drive much of Asia's wealth, as 'congenital gamblers'.

"That habit -- visible at a cockfight, the mahjong table or the racecourse -- has now coupled with rising affluence to draw gaming firms such as MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts Ltd. who are eager to invest billions of dollars in Asia.

"…Led by rapid growth in the tiny Chinese city of Macau, revenues from Asia's 80 or so licensed casinos are likely to grow 20 percent to US$13 billion this year, Las Vegas-based Globalysis said. Illegal casinos rake in an estimated $100 billion.

"…Chinese gamblers can jump to border-town gambling dens in Vietnam, North Korea and Myanmar. Thai punters head to Cambodia while Singaporeans opt for cruise ships around the island's international waters.

"…Las Vegas has long relied on 'whales', or players who bet up to US$5 million in the course of a single trip, and Asian tycoons like Oei Hong Leong of the wealthy Indonesian-Chinese Widjaja attract media attention at the gaming tables.

"…High rollers account for about 20 percent of global casino receipts, but about 60 percent of Asian revenues, analysts said.

"The region's growing wealth is creating a potential new pool of big players -- Asia Pacific now has an estimated 2.3 million people with at least $1 million in financial assets, almost as many as the U.S., according to Merrill Lynch/Capgemini.

"Revenues generated from rooms reserved solely for high-end players of baccarat, a popular card game in Asia, amounted to $3.5 billion, or 61 percent of Macau's total gaming revenue last year, government data showed…"

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