Macau Gives Las Vegas Serious Competition - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Las Vegas now has serious competition for the title of "Gaming Capital of the World." The latest gaming revenue shows casinos in Macau, China made about the same amount of money on gambling as Las Vegas.

The difference is that Macau matched Las Vegas gaming revenue with less than half the number of visitors. There were 16 million visitors to Macau in 2004. That same year, 37 million people came through Las Vegas.

Gaming experts say that Asian tourists visiting Macau gamble a lot more money than the average tourist coming to Las Vegas.

Casino operators in the valley realized that competition from around the world would take our gaming dollars. With the expansion Indian gaming in the U.S. and explosive growth in Macau,

UNLV gaming studies coordinator Dave Schwartz says Las Vegas changed. The Mirage was the first to add attractions to casinos like world-class shows and high-end shopping.

Schwartz says, "Las Vegas also expanded because they moved into non-gaming. That is a vindication of that decision."

That move away from gaming was embraced by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Senior Vice President of Marketing, Terry Jicinsky says Las Vegas is a destination that doesn't just rely on gambling to attract guests.

"People go there for short periods of time, whether it be four or five hours in the afternoon or an evening of gambling. People come to Las Vegas for the full resort vacation experience," Jicinsky said.

Las Vegas casino owners also realized the potential in Macau. Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson opened the Sands Macau. Wynn Las Vegas owner Steve Wynn is opening a casino there next year. MGM-Mirage started negotiations four years ago and announced a partnership for a new casino in Macau as well.

An MGM-Mirage spokesman says the Macau expansions will not be competition, but an opportunity for Las Vegas. As visitors in Macau grow, the companies here that own property there can a pitch for a trans-Pacific vacation.

But why does each gambler in Macau spend more than an average gambler in Las Vegas?

The tourists going to Macau take gambling more seriously than most visitors to Las Vegas according to UNLV's Dave Schwartz. He says a huge percentage of the gaming revenue in Macau comes from table games. He adds Asian gamblers are very picky about where they bet their money. Macau visitors play on baccarat, but you won't find a craps table.

Schwartz says, "Asian gamblers look at dice with distain."

An extremely small percentage of Macau tourists play slot machines.

Macau is located in a densely populated part of the world. There are millions of Asians targeted by the casinos there. "I think many of them are new to casino gaming and probably would not have the money to make the trip to come out to Las Vegas, but do have the money to go to Macau," Schwartz added.

In 2003, Eyewitness News went to Macau. In an interview there, Harald Bruning from the South China Morning Post said Macau gamblers bet larger amounts of money for a reason.

Bruning said, "They are convinced they are going to win. They believe in luck. Luck is what determines all of life, or lack of it."

At the moment life is good for the people who own casino properties in one of the world's fastest growing gaming meccas.

Gaming experts say Macau is one of those places in the world to try and get a foothold if you want to be a significant gaming company.

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