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Macao's Casino Tussle Heating up

Competition in the gambling industry in Macao is getting fierce, as the wrangle between local and foreign casino moguls has intensified.


"Those who cannot compete should stand down," Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp. in the United States, said here Monday at the topping-off ceremony for his Venetian Macao Resort Hotel.


Meanwhile, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, running 16 of Macao's 21 casinos with a market share of some 70 percent, warned on another occasion the same day that "the vicious competition will improve nothing."


"If you can't stand the heat, leave the kitchen," Adelson said in response to concerns expressed by Stanley Ho about competition- led profit decline and job losses.


Adelson said that competition will be fiercer in the future as new players like himself and Las Vegas casino resort developer Steve Wynn enter the circle that Ho has monopolized for 40 years.


Macao opened the casino market in 2002, forcing Ho to accept new players by issuing two new licenses. The government later allowed the splitting of the three licenses into a total of six.


Three of the licenses were secured by Ho and his family members and the other three were snatched by Wynn, Adelson and Hong Kong businessman Lui Che-woo's Galaxy Entertainment Group.


Wynn's first Macao-based casino is slated to open in early September and Adelson's second is scheduled to operate around in the mid-2007. Sands Macao, Adelson's maiden work in Macao, has been operating since May 2004.


Ho earlier in the month grumbled about losing businesses to Sands as Sands pays higher commission to agents who are responsible for bringing high rollers to VIP gaming halls.


It was reported that Ho's 150 VIP lounges pay a 0.7 percent commission to agents, while Sands pays 1.1 to 1.4 percent, drawing away punters and causing profit and job losses in a third of Ho's VIP halls.


But Sands President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner said Monday that they are paying the same percentage of commission in the market.


He said but unlike Ho, they do not have as many middlemen who cut into the agents' share.


"We have fewer layers," Weidner said. "Fierce competition happens all over the world. If he (Ho) can't stand competition, then don't compete."


Ho has warned of instability in Macao should the high commission rate stay on, but Weidner said he is not worried about cutthroat competition.


Regarding Ho's earlier plea for an industry chamber to regulate agents' commission, Weidner said Sands "will never join an organization whose purpose is to sit down and talk about setting prices."


The Sands Macao casino, which boasts the world's biggest casino by the number of gaming tables, features 740 tables and 1,254 slot machines.


The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel will add 700 tables and 6,000 slot machines. The Wynn Macao casino will have about 200 tables and 380 slots machines.


Facing the challenges, Stanley Ho accused that his two U.S. competitors failed to fulfill their promises to help reinforce Macao's economy.


"They earn our money here while we spend it here and invest here," Ho said.


However, as more foreign investment is keeping flooding in, the market competition will hardly "be under control" as the local casino czar expects.


(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2006)


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