The Macau government said it won’t approve new casino projects and will allow only 500 additional gambling tables in the next three years, raising questions about operators’ major expansion plans.
The decision comes as the government, which draws around 70% of its revenue from gaming, seeks to diversify the city’s economy away from the gambling industry, with the goal of developing Macau into a popular leisure and entertainment destination.
Macau now has around 5,000 gambling tables and six licensed casino operators, some of which have projects under construction that could add around 1,300 tables by next year.
Macau’s top gambling official, Francis Tam, said this week that the total number of tables will be capped at 5,500 until 2013.
His comments come as Macau’s gambling revenue skyrocketed 66% in the first two months this year, according to media reports, raising concerns the city’s gambling market is expanding at an unsustainable pace.
The Chinese government has urged Macau’s leaders to cool the city’s gambling industry growth because of concerns that many mainland Chinese are gambling away their savings in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal.
Wall Street Journal reported that Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui said the government will take steps to repossess any idle land being held by casino developers without concrete plans to develop it. However, analysts largely wrote off the tough talk as political posturing, given complaints about rising property prices.