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Counting the Cost

Betting on Macau

How big a threat does the over-reliance on the gaming industry pose to Macau's socio-economic stability?
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2013 20:05

This week on Counting the Cost we look at one of the world's most unique economies.

Macau’s economy expanded 14 percent last year and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, quite the opposite. If all predictions are correct, the former Portuguese colony will have the fastest growing economy in the world this year with an unemployment rate of two percent.

But all this is dependent on gambling, which makes up 95 percent of Macau's economy.

So, will its reliance on high-rolling gamblers put Macau's economy at risk?

The Venetian Macau has the largest gaming floor found anywhere and it is the world's largest hotel with 3,000 rooms. We speak to Ed Tracy, the CEO of Sands & Venetian Casinos and one of the leading players in the city's booming gambling industry.

"What Las Vegas doesn't have is the market characteristics of China. Without that component you will never see the kind of revenue generation that you see here, so it's clearly the most unique market in the world, because it sits right next to the biggest market in the world, that being mainland China," he says.

Tracy believes that Chinese customers will one day seek out Macau for what else it can offer, not just for gambling.

"There happens to be a great history of gaming in China and in there is an undeniable propensity for our Chinese customers to spend time in a casino. That doesn’t make it wrong and that doesn’t make it the wrong business model but in terms of the future of Macau, what we want to see is more and more attractions."

With gaming revenues on the island expected to almost double to $62bn, Hong Kong billionaire Francis Lui, the CEO of Galaxy Entertainment Casinos, has big plans. He is expanding his casino resort right next to the Venetian.

He says: "We believe in the China story, we know the customer is going to come .... In China, we believe that after buying a property, buying a car, and eating good food, have clothes to wear, the next thing they really want is leisure and entertainment. And Macau is in a very unique position being the only city in the entire China where we allow gaming .... The wealthy middle class in China is becoming bigger and bigger."

In Sudan, gambling has been prohibited since Islamic law was introduced, but that is not stopping the locals enjoying their traditional horse racing. Harriet Martin reports now on how a favourite Sudanese passion and the country's horse racing industry is surviving in tough times.

We also look at the threat of economic collapse hanging over Honduras, a country which was big news a few years ago for what basically amounted to a coup. However, there is a potentially bigger problem now which is not gathering as many headlines. Foreign debt is stacking up, salaries are being squeezed and unemployment is high. It is like a mini-Greece in Central America - but no-one is exactly lining up to bail Honduras out of its debt crisis. Mariana Sanchez reports from the capital Tegucigalpa.

And, for high-rollers of a different kind, how about a $3.4mn supercar? That is what it will cost you to buy one of the world’s newest, and most expensive, supercars. Counting the Cost visits the Qatar Motor Show to take a look at what is on offer.

 
Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Click here for more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali @abidoliverali

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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