Macau visitor arrivals up 20 pct in first two months - Saturday 12th of March 2005

MACAU, March 21 (Reuters) - Macau welcomed 2.92 million visitors in the first two months of 2005, up 19.6 per cent from the same period last year, the government said on Monday.

The tiny territory, the only place in China where casinos are legal, logged a record 16.67 million visitor arrivals last year and tourism officials expect the figure to rise to 20 million this year. In the first two months of the year, the Macau government collected 2.7 billion patacas ($337.5 million) in direct casino gross revenue taxes, an increase of 30.3 percent on the same period last year.

Macau's 17 casinos pay 35 percent of their gross receipts as direct tax to the public coffers.

Gambling, tourism and textile and garment exports are the mainstays of Macau's economy, which government officials say is estimated to have grown by about 25 per cent last year, compared with 15.6 per cent in 2003.

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