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A Dutch windmill amid tulips

A DUTCH TOWN WITH CASINOS...IN JAPAN



AUSTRALIAN ADVOCATES WANT MORE CURBS ON MACHINE GAMBLING



Gambling addiction continues to be the prime focus of advocates who want to further curtail Australia’s lucrative machine gambling industry.

It is estimated there are 300,000 problem gamblers in Australia, equal to the population of the capital of Canberra, and a gambling reform summit was convened last month in Sydney to look at ways to bring down the country’s high rates of addiction.

The gathering, covered by BBC News, heard repeated calls for the government to do more. The issue was characterized as a “social emergency,” with attendees zeroing in on slot machines, or “pokies,” as they’re known locally, as the leading culprit.

Senator Nick Xenophon says immediate action is needed and the industry “needs to realise that its time is up”.

“It is not tenable for a situation where 50 percent of poker machine losses come from problem gamblers, and something has to change.”

Gambling in Australia generates about A$18 billion annually. More than A$9 billion is wagered on slots.

A government report on the social consequences is expected to be released in the next few months.



MACAU ON A ROLL; CREDIT TAPS FLOWING



June was looking likely to duplicate May’s scorching revenue numbers in Macau, with win from the Chinese gambling enclave’s 33 casinos estimated to be up 70 percent over last year.

Deutsche Bank analyst Karen Tang has revised her forecast for the balance of 2010, stating in a recent report that gambling revenue could increase 50 percent this year, compared with her earlier forecast of 35 percent.

“Macau will remain strong in the near team,” she said.

CLSA gaming analyst Aaron Fischer said he expects Macau tourism to increase about 10 percent annually with construction of several stalled casino developments being restarted.

Gross gambling revenue in May jumped 98 percent from a year earlier to hit a record high of more than MOP17 billion (US$2.12 billion), surpassing April’s previous record of MOP14.1 billion.

Tang attributes the results to an increase in credit funneled through the junket operators who control the traffic in wealthy baccarat players from the Chinese mainland. This high-roller trade accounts for about three-quarters of GGR.

Total revenue for the first five months of 2010 rose to about MOP72 billion (US$8.96 billion) from MOP43 billion over the same period in 2009, according to news reports. Last year, bettors wagered a record MOP119 billion, 9.7 percent more than in 2008.

Stanley Ho’s SJM Holdings continued to lead the market with a May revenue share of slightly above 32 percent, followed by Sands China, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands, with just under 20 percent, and Steve Wynn’s Wynn Macau, with nearly 16 percent. Melco Crown Entertainment garnered about 14 percent, Galaxy Entertainment Group around 11 percent and MGM Macau about 7 percent.

Not surprisingly, industry leaders are bullish on the potential region-wide. Observers expect more and more people to enter the ranks of Asia’s wealthy and middle classes in the wake of the region’s rebound from the economic slump, and that will drive regional travel, including gambling. About two-thirds of attendees polled at last month’s Global Gaming Expo Asia believe the region’s gambling markets could overtake the United States in as little as three years. Those surveyed said Macau would remain Asia’s dominant market, while some expected Japan, if it legalizes casinos, to steal the No. 2 spot from Singapore.

In 2009, Macau’s took in $14.5 billion. The entire U.S. market took in $30.7 billion.



SANDS REACHES DEAL FOR PLAYBOY CLUB

Sands China and Playboy Enterprises have entered a licensing agreement that will bring two Playboy clubs to the company’s properties in Macau.

The first is set to launch by year’s end, said Sands China, the publicly traded entity that operates the Macau gambling resorts of Las Vegas Sands. The 12,000-square-foot Playboy Club Macao will be located at the top of Sands Macao with a range of attractions, including private entertainment and media rooms, live entertainment, private gambling areas and high-limit gambling for the public.

The second phase of the partnership, scheduled to open early in 2012, will see a 30,000-square-foot Playboy Mansion Macao open on developable land Sands China controls as part of its Cotai Strip resort complex. This venue will include bars, lounges, a nightclub, gambling and retail.

“Playboy’s entrance into Macau is a welcome addition to Sands China’s offering for the region, further cementing our promise of providing Asia with unprecedented entertainment and integrated resort amenities for all ages and palates,” said Sands China CEO Steve Jacobs.

Playboy Enterprises Chief Executive Scott Flanders called it a “great opportunity”.

“We look forward to continued expansion of our location-based entertainment business around the world.”



HARRAH'S ON MACAU: ‘PATIENCE' THE WORD

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Speculation has been rife about whether the stalled Studio City resort project could provide an opportunity for a new player to enter Macau’s red-hot gambling market.

That player could be Las Vegas-based casino giant Harrah’s Entertainment.

Michael Chen, president of the company’s Asia division, said Macau remains a top priority even though the company doesn’t have a gambling presence there - Harrah’s operates a golf course in Macau.

Chen declined to comment on whether Harrah’s has held discussions with the Macau government about taking part in the troubled Studio City project, which is being developed by eSun Holdings but is mired in legal and  financial difficulties.

Speaking at last month’s G2E Asia, Chen emphasized “patience”.

“The government will make it clear when they want new entrants,” he said..