Macau: Asia’s gaming market will overtake the US in as little as three years as the region’s rich flock to glittering gambling hubs such as Macau, a survey said on 8 June.
While Macau has already leapfrogged Las Vegas in gaming revenue and posts record-breaking growth, Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations are now building up their gambling sectors to cash in on its exploding popularity.
The survey of industry experts was released in Macau where thousands of delegates are attending the three-day Global Gaming Expo Asia which started on 8 June in the former Portuguese colony.
It concluded that US casino revenue -- including the gambling paradise of Las Vegas as well as Atlantic City and Reno -- would be eclipsed by Asia in three to five years.
“(The study results) foretell a remarkable future for Asian gaming markets -- from continued revenue growth in Macau to the rise of newer jurisdictions such as Singapore,” Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the American Gaming Association, said in a statement ahead of a press briefing for the survey.
“The prospects for gaming in Asia are exciting, as there are many different roads growth and expansion could take.”
The experts also said Macau would remain the region’s dominant market, while some expected Japan to steal the number two spot from Singapore.
In 2009, Macau alone notched up about $14.5 billion in gaming revenue while the entire US market saw revenues of $30.74 billion.
And despite dire predictions of a slowdown due to the global downturn gaming sales in May soared 95 percent year-on-year to 17 billion patacas ($2.10 billion), according to Hong Kong brokerage CLSA.
“We’ve been saying for eight months that things would slow down, but they haven’t,” said Aaron Fischer, a CLSA gaming analyst. “Logic would say it’s going to slow down.”
Fischer said he expects Macau tourist arrivals to increase about 10 percent annually with the construction of several stalled casino-hotel developments being restarted on the reclaimed Cotai Strip.
Soaring revenues in the high-roller market are driving the huge gains, rather than an across-the-board surge in money spent on the gaming tables, he added.
Fahrenkopf said the city’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.
Other Asian countries have keyed in to Macau’s success with Singapore opening its second casino in April as part of a bid to lure big spenders from across the region.
The $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands was opened by US gaming giant Las Vegas Sands, already a big player in Macau, as part of the firm’s bet on Asia.
Asians “see gaming as a form of entertainment” while Westerners would rather spend money on dining and going out with friends, Sands chief executive Sheldon Adelson said when Marina Bay opened its doors.
An expected growth in the number of Asian multi-millionaires and middle class following the region’s sharp rebound from the economic slump should drive regional travel, including people playing at casinos, observers have said.
Despite concerns over its social impact, Singapore gave the green light for casino gambling in 2005 in a bid to increase tourist arrivals and cash in on a growing trend in Asia.
Outside Macau and Singapore, casinos are authorised in Australia, Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines among others, while more are underway.