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Macao's gaming market expands further
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The five-star Ponte 16 casino resort opened on Friday, bringing the total number of casinos in Macao to 29, which also saw local gaming magnate Stanley Ho rally its strength to fight the flooding-in Las Vegas gaming companies for market share.

The integrated resort was jointly developed by SJM (Sociedade de Jogos de Macao) S.A., owned by local gaming magnate Stanley Ho, and Macao Success Limited. It features 105 gaming tables and 300 slot machines, and a hotel run by the French luxury hotel chain Sofitel. The resort currently opens its mass gaming floor and will open four to five VIP gaming rooms in March and retail space in the near future.

Situated in the island city's old Inner harbor, which is surrounded by a number of local UNESCO Heritage sites, Ponte 16 drew its architectural design inspiration from the city's early 20th century traditional buildings. "The Inner Harbor is..full of the collective memories of society. SJM, through the development of the Ponte 16, aims to continue the historical and cultural mission of the Inner Harbor," said Ambrose So, director of SJM, at a press conference before the resort's opening ceremony.

Before the opening of Ponte 16, SJM owns 18 of Macao's 28 casinos, with a top gaming market share of 31 percent, 12 percentage points ahead of second-ranked Las Vegas Sand.

So said that due to the ever increasing local labor and construction costs, the total investment of the project amounted to 3 billion patacas (375 million U.S. dollars). But "we are confident that we will have a very good return of our investment, we hope to get our money back within 3 to 4 years time."

Macao casinos saw their gaming revenue surge to 83 billion patacas (10.4 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 46.6 percent compared with 2006, according to the latest statistics released by the government's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.

Addressing the intensifying gaming market competition, he said if casino profits increase at the same rate with market growth, "then everybody will be able to enjoy the pie."

To diversify its customer source, Ponte 16 also eyes "the quality Japanese customers" as it was planning to introduce Pachinko (a popular Japanese gaming device used for amusement and prizes and is related to pinball machines) into its gaming floor, said Hoffman Ma, executive director of Macao Success Ltd.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

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