HONG KONG (AP) — Macau casino gambling revenue surged by nearly half last year as the world’s biggest gambling market continued to boom, powered by wealthy, high-rolling Chinese gamblers.
Gross revenue from Macau’s 34 casinos in 2011 totaled 267.87 billion patacas ($33.5 billion), up 42 percent from 188.34 billion patacas ($23.5 billion) in 2010, according to data posted on the gaming department’s website Tuesday.
Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
Macau’s economic growth has rocketed since the government broke up a four-decade monopoly in 2002 and allowed in foreign operators such as U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts Ltd., controlled by casino mogul Steve Wynn.
Casino revenues have been driven by rich gamblers from mainland China betting big, mostly on baccarat, in private rooms. Many of them play with money borrowed from so-called “junket operators,” who arrange gambling trips for high-rollers and collect debts when they return home.
Tuesday’s numbers show that high-rollers are continuing to bet amid rising fears that casino revenues could be hit as China’s economy slows and credit conditions tighten.
The casino boom has transformed the city from a sleepy former colonial outpost into a glitzy and bustling tourist destination.
After years of searing growth, officials in Macau and Beijing are trying to steer the city toward a more diversified economy by developing cultural attractions to draw families.
The former Portuguese colony, which became a special administrative region of China in 1999, overtook the Las Vegas Strip in 2006 as the world’s most lucrative gambling market.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.