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Macau February Gambling Revenue Up 22% On Year At MOP24.29 Billion

HONG KONG -(Dow Jones)- Gambling revenue in Macau rose 22% in February from a year earlier, government statistics showed Thursday, as players from mainland China continued to fuel solid growth, though not at the blistering pace recorded last year. Gambling revenue in Macau, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, rose to MOP24.29 billion (US$3.04 billion) last month, up from MOP19.86 billion a year earlier, according to data from Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. The growth was strong considering the week-long Lunar New Year holidays fell in January this year versus February last year, said CLSA analyst Aaron Fischer. "This impressive growth highlights Macau's still-strong momentum on top of two exceptional years. We are not changing our 15% full-year forecast, but it seems pretty conservative if we consider that growth will step up when Sands China Ltd. (1928.HK) opens its new casino resort this year," he said. Macau's revenue growth has been explosive since the end of 2009 as players have continued to place bets regardless of China's tightening measures and local government policies aimed at slowing growth to a more measured pace. Analysts expect the pace of growth to slow in 2012, however, due to a high base of comparison last year and concerns about the sustainability of the fierce growth in VIP play. The most bearish gambling revenue growth estimates for the territory hover around 11% compared with last year's 42% rise. The Chinese territory remains the largest gambling center in the world many times over. Last year it raked in more than five times the gambling revenue of the Las Vegas Strip. -By Kate O'Keeffe, Dow Jones Newswires; 852-2802-7002;

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