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High-stake Gamble Over Casinos

THE chips are piling up fast across Asia as countries in the region race to snare their share of casino dollars.

Gambling industry spokesmen and analysts argue compellingly that casinos are a sure bet for padding government coffers for the greater good, but sceptics say the social cost and inevitable crime outweigh the benefits.

Meanwhile, the numbers in the Asian industry, comprising a few major commercial casino resorts and tens of thousands of shady, hole-in-the-wall gambling dens, are big and growing more attractive.

Manila-based investment firm Sinorex Holding estimates that the region’s illegal gambling industry is worth at least US$13 billion (S$22 billion) a year.

And Malaysia-based gaming consultancy Jayport Holdings says Asia’s legitimate casino industry is worth US$4.1 billion and will grow by an estimated 6 per cent a year for the next 20 years.

Singaporeans will know at the end of the year if the Government will allow a casino on the Southern Islands, but the Thai Parliament has already endorsed legalising casinos in the kingdom.

Taiwan and Japan are also keen to allow casinos to cash in on a market now dominated by Macau, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia.

And considering China, where a robust economy is fuelling a burgeoning middle class of big spenders, it is not surprising that governments are being lured to place their bets on this new venture.

A Far Eastern Economic Review report said that by 2010, Asians are expected to spend US$23 billion in casinos worldwide, up from US$8 billion in 2000.

‘Consumers are getting more disposable income, they want to spend it,’ said Mr Sean Monaghan, director of gaming and wagering research at ABN Amro, Australia.

‘But apart from high-quality casinos like those in Genting Highlands in Malaysia and on board Star Cruise ships, there is generally not enough supply across the region,’ he told The Straits Times.

Analysts say expanding Asia’s gaming market will boost tourism, as casinos provide an additional form of entertainment for tourists.

‘Asia is already a popular tourist destination – friendly people, beautiful beaches, low prices. So an Asian Las Vegas would only serve to attract more tourists,’ said Mr Ted Loh, managing director of online gaming consultancy

Read the entire article at: TheStraitsTimes 

2004 Online Casino News Archive


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