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The Macau Metro Monitor, March 23rd, 2010

POLICY ADDRESS 2010-- ECONOMY AND FINANCE: MAXIMUM 5,500 GAMING TABLES BY 2013 Macau Daily Times

On the last day of the economy and finance policy debate at the Legislative Assembly, Secretary Tam stated that Macau has nearly 5,000 table games, and the government has decided that the number will not be allowed to go beyond 5,500 in the next three years in keeping with the goal "moderate growth" of table games in the range of 3-4% for the foreseeable future. “It shows that the gaming industry has entered a stable period compared to the previous years when the gaming tables reported a one-fold increase between 2005 and 2006,” the Secretary said. From 2007 to 2009, gaming tables grew ny 9% from 4,375 to 4,770.

Tam also said that "all the pending applications [to open new casinos before 2013] have already been stopped but those which have been approved will be able to continue [their expansion plans]." The Secretary did not mention specific properties.  He pointed out that it is difficult for a city to “maintain an edge” in the competition between casinos, since “people can always build a bigger and more luxurious casino than yours in other places....It is hoped that the gaming operators won’t solely pursue development in their own business and an increase in the gaming tables. Macau’s future economic development is heading towards a world leisure and tourism hub and I hope that the gaming companies can contribute to this goal while achieving individual success at the same time,” he said.

Lawmaker Chan Chak Mo asked Secretary Tam what the legal basis is for rejecting operators to open more gaming tables and whether the move will lead to lawsuits against the government. The Secretary ensured the lawmaker that there is a legal basis and each new gaming table requires a government approval. “The government has the legal power to control the expansion of the gaming industry.”

When asked about the latest progress of the plan to move slot machine establishments from residential areas, the Secretary revealed that the government has the idea of creating a “betting zone” but did not give further details.

On a separate issue, Francis Tam Pak Yuen estimated that in the first half of 2010 Macau may report a double-digit increase in Gross Domestic Product.  As for the second half of this year, he said it will depend on the global economic climate, but adding the SAR government is confident that a “stable growth” could be maintained overall.  “The ultimate goal of developing the economy has always been to enhance people’s quality of life,” he added.