Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Macao's gaming market to embrace new take-off: Interview

Macao's gaming market is poised to embrace a take-off benefiting from a series of favorable policy supports from the mainland, said Ambrose So, general manager of the Macao Gaming Co. (SJM) to Xinhua.


Macao's gaming market is poised to embrace a take-off benefiting from a series of favorable policy supports from the mainland, said Ambrose So, general manager of the Macao Gaming Co. (SJM) to Xinhua.

The veteran casino runner overseeing tycoon Stanley Ho's huge casino assets in Macao said Macao's gaming industry with a history 84 years older than that of Las Vegas faces a new round of growth period with the mainland's opening-up on Hong Kong and Macao-bound travels and the economic integration of the Pearl River Delta Region. They will be realized through the Mainland/Macao Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) and the building of a cross-sea bridge threading up Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai City in Guangdong Province.

The facilitated travel policy has expanded the mainland's source of tourists to Macao; the bridge will shorten the distance between Macao and HK's international airport to about half an hour; and the trade pact will help create cooperation opportunities in tourism between Macao and the mainland, said So.

Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) dubbed as "Oriental Monta Carlo" is the only place in China, where the gambling business is legal.

All of the currently operating casino businesses in Macao is owned by Stanley Ho, whose business is contracted to contribute 9 billion patacas (112 million US dollars) to the SAR government's tax coffer this year -- half of the government's revenue.

He added that although his monopoly was broken with the opening-up of the gaming market in 2001, Ho welcomed the change, which was "inevitable" for the future growth of the industry.

Ho reshuffled his flagship Macao Tourism and Amusement Company (STDM), and founded SJM to respond to the bidding.

By year 2001, the annual tax yielded by STDM had increased by from 3 million patacas (375,000 US dollars) in 1963 to 6.5 billion patacas (812 million US dollars) with its fastest growth period in1980s.

Now the second boom is not far away, said So, saying the opening-up of the gaming market itself has turned out to be a big advertisement for Macao's casino business on the international market and reinforces its image as a "free port."

"Despite the pending competition, SJM will still take a strong leading role in the casino business in the coming ten years," said So confidently.

The company has been deeply rooted in the soil of Macao and has been the main undertaker of Macao's urbanization building and employment, he said, stressing that it takes time for the foreign players to pour billions of dollars of investment to build infrastructure work in Macao.

SJM has recently planned to earmark 4.7 billion patacas (587 million US dollars) to revamp its casinos and build new attractions. Its latest piece was the dazzling "Crystal Palace," which came into stream in May. With a decoration cost of 25 million patacas (3 million US dollars), the main-hall of the casino was laid with shining Italian gold foil mosaic to reflect the dazzling radiance of the huge tubal crystal droplights hang from the ceiling.

An expansion of its flagship Hotel Lisboa, which houses the largest casino in Macao will kick off before the end of this year.The expanded entertainment area to face the old building across a street will borrow an air of Las Vegas. The high-rise complex with30-plus floors is designed to connect with the old building through an underground passway.

The building of the new wing estimated to cost over 1 billion patacas (125 million US dollars) is slated for the end of the year, and will be completed in the year 2005. Meanwhile, SJM will carry out a step-by-step refurbishment of the old hotel building.

"Macao's advantage lies in its distinct blend of the oriental and the western cultures. It is part of SJM's own objective to turn Macao into a unique culture city and win," said So.

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