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U.S. gaming mogul Adelson inks Macau casino deal

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MACAU (Reuters) – Las Vegas gaming mogul Sheldon Adelson signed a 20-year casino concession deal with Macau on Wednesday and immediately pledged to have nothing to do with organised criminals in the tiny enclave.

 

Macau, home to 11 casinos in its 17 square km in southeast China, is famous for its gambling — which generates most of the government’s revenue and, with tourism, makes up nearly half the economy.

 

But Macau has also been plagued by triad criminal gangs that operate illegal moneylending, prostitution and protection rackets on the fringes of the lucrative gambling business.

 

The government is trying to clean up and revamp the sector and has awarded one of three new concessions to Adelson’s Galaxy Casino, which he jointly owns with Hong Kong tycoon Lui Chi-wo and other individuals.

 

Adelson is chairman of Las Vegas Sands, the UFA parent company of The Venetian Resort-Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.

 

Asked by reporters if he was worried about triad gangs in Macau, Adelson said he had “an allergy to organised crime”.

 

“I break out in a rash,” he said after inking the deal.

 

He said U.S. gaming-operator regulations required him to be “squeaky-clean” as far as organised crime on the fringes of the gaming industry was concerned.

 

Macau’s casinos last year had gross gaming revenue of $2.5 billion, compared with the US$9.5 billion gathered in by Nevada’s nearly 500 casinos.

 

Forty percent of gamblers in Macau are from China, 30 percent from Hong Kong and the balance from Taiwan and elsewhere.

 

 

VIOLENCE DISAPPEARED

 

Fierce fighting between rival gangs rocked Macau in the 1990s but has mostly disappeared after this former Portuguese enclave returned to Chinese rule in 1999.

 

The other two new concessions have been granted to Wynn Resort (Macau) and Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun’s Sociedade de Jogos de Macau/SJM (Macau Gaming Company).

 

Wynn Resorts is a joint venture between Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, Japanese slot-machine king Kazuo Okada and Macau property developer Wong Chi-seng.

 

The three concessions broke up Ho’s four-decade old casino monopoly.

 

Macau Secretary for the Economy and Finance Francis Tam said Galaxy Casino will invest at least 8.8 billion patacas (US$1.1 billion) in two resort projects.

 

Both, to be open by June 2006, will include convention centres.

 

One of the casinos will be modelled after The Venetian in Las Vegas, complete with its own Grand Canal and singing gondoliers.

 

Galaxy Casino will pay a casino gross-revenue tax rate of 35 percent. An extra four percent of its gross takings will go into public infrastructure projects, social welfare and educational and cultural undertakings.

 

It will pay premiums for its gaming tables and slot machines.

 

Adelson said a temporary casino will be open within the next few months that will have “no less than 200 gaming tables”.

 

Wynn Resort said on Monday it did not plan to open a temporary casino. Its casino resort is due to open by 2006.