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Macao spins the wheel to drive tourism sector

By Chen Jia in Macao ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-07-06 07:02:46

 Macao spins the wheel to drive tourism sector

Mainland tourists play at the Galaxy Macao casino on Taipa Island in Macao. The annual income from Macao's gambling industry was $44 billion in 2014, down by 2.55 percent compared with 2013. Chen Jia / China Daily

Vacation island moves into more mainstream entertainment in a bid to attract families and younger visitors

Cheng Koon-man made the right decision when he opened a second restaurant in Macao deep in the heart of a new bustling shopping precinct.

As crowds of customers stream in and out of Wong Kung Sio Kung, Cheng's smile of satisfaction reflects his hopes for the future in this Special Administrative Region.

"The business is better than I expected since I opened on May 27 as more tourists have visited Galaxy Macao and Broadway Macao for shopping, watching shows and eating out," the Macao-born restauranteur said, adding that he opened his first restaurant in the old city quarter of the island in 2000.

Broadway Macao is a vibrant new area modeled on New York's Broadway theaterland. It was built by one of the big casino operators - Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, and opened this year.

Along the crowded street, more than 30 shops and restaurants cater for thousands of tourists that throng the area, searching for a little piece of old Macao. "We specialize in shrimp roe noodles and sea crab congee," Cheng said. "And the tourists like what we are doing."

Less than a minute's walk from his restaurant and over a pedestrian bridge from Broadway Macao is GEG's new complex of casinos, shopping malls and six world-class hotels.

The Hong Kong-listed resort company has pumped HK$43 billion ($5.5 billion) into its Macao venture in the past four years, which has doubled in size. The Galaxy Macao and Broadway Macao complex now stands in 1.1 million square meters or the size of more than four Bird's Nest Olympic stadiums.

"Rooted in Macao, we are aligned with the central government's vision to help the territory fulfill its potential as a world center of tourism and leisure, contributing to Macao's long-term growth," Lui Che-woo, the billionaire chairman of GEG, said at the opening of the second phase of the Galaxy Macao and Broadway Macao projects.

Plans to further expand the GEG brand by opening a third and fourth phase are underway at a cost of around HK$57 billion as the company looks to attract more traditional tourists. "The non-gambling element of our business will develop faster in the future," said Francis Lui, deputy chairman of the GEG.

Situated on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong, Macao is known for its glitzy casinos, high-rollers and weekend gamblers. But that is starting to change as the island moves into the mainstream tourism market to make up for the fall in gambling revenue, which has been hit by the government's anti-corruption drive.

Last year, annual income from the gaming industry was $44 billion, down by 2.55 percent compared to 2013, figures from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region show.

It was the first annual decline since records began in 2002. Then last month, gambling revenue dropped by 36.2 percent to $2.2 billion compared with the same period last year. That was slightly better than May's figures, which showed a 37 percent fall.

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