In October visitor arrivals were up 20 per cent on a year earlier, while official figures for the most recent quarter show the territory overtaking the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s largest gaming centre.

The gambling boom, fuelled by China's fast-growing economy, has attracted billions of dollars of investment from casino operators, including several from Las Vegas.

City of Dreams

Melco, which manages its Macau operations as a joint-venture with Australia’s Publishing & Broadcasting, is planning to open its first casino in mid-2007.

The 220-table Crown Macau casino cost $512 million to build.

It has also started work on the 2,000 room, 450-table City of Dreams gambling resort, the first phase of which is due to open in 2008 at a total cost of $2.1 billion.

A third project, currently in the planning stage, for a casino and apartment complex in Macau is expected to cost a further $700 million.

In a preliminary prospectus filed with US authorities. Melco said the IPO would amount to 14 per cent of the company.

It gave no date for offering, but trading is expected to begin in a few weeks.