Asia's gambling market could be bigger than the US in 3 years

Delegates get the lowdown on the future at Global Gaming Asia

Delegates to the Global Gaming Asia conference, which started in Macau this week, were told that the region’s gambling market has a good chance of overtaking that of the United States within the next three to five years.

Land gambling on the island of Macau off the Chinese coast has already surpassed that of Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue, recording record-breaking growth, delegates were told, and Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations are now building up their gambling sectors to cash in on its exploding popularity.

"The growth of the market in Asia has been incredible," Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the American Gaming Association, said Tuesday, adding that recent survey statistics indicated that industry executives expected Asia to overtake the US, and that the region had "unlimited" potential as a gambling hub.

Respondents felt that Macau would remain the region's dominant market, while some expected Japan to steal the number two spot from Singapore even though the country is still debating whether to legalise casinos.

In 2009, Macau alone took in 14.5 billion US dollars (see previous InfoPowa reports) while the entire US market raked in 30.74 billion US dollars. Macau gambling revenues in May soared 95 percent year-on-year to US$2.10 billion dollars, according to Hong Kong brokerage CLSA.

"We've been saying for eight months that things would slow down, but they haven't," one gaming analyst said, adding that he expects Macau tourist arrivals to increase about 10 percent annually with construction of several stalled casino-hotel developments being restarted.

Soaring revenues in the high-roller market are driving the gains, rather than an across-the-board surge on the gaming tables, he revealed. Other experts predicted Macau's "torrid growth would continue for some time".

Fahrenkopf said Macau’s record-breaking revenues stood in sharp contrast to US destination venues such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, which have felt the impact of the downturn. He also sounded a note of caution, pointing to the dangers of China clamping down on visitor visas, and a proposed smoking ban. He revealed that a similar ban in the USA had seen an average 20 percent decline in revenue in the first year.

The AGA executive said that Internet gambling was likely to emerge as a "significant part" of the global market, despite bans in the United States, but he did not think it would "diminish gaming in a place like Macau."

Other Asian countries building significant potential include Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

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