ambling revenue will grow 70% in Macau this year, accelerating from 50% growth in 2007, Ho said. About 30 million visitors are expected in "this little place" this year, straining transport infrastructure that hasn't kept pace with a casino building boom, said Ho, who runs the Crown Macau and has two other developments there.
Competition has intensified in Macau, which in 2006 overtook the Las Vegas Strip as the world's biggest gambling hub. The number of casinos has more than doubled to 29 since the government ended the 40-year monopoly held by billionaire Stanley Ho, Lawrence's father.
Macau, the only Chinese region where casinos are legal, awarded gaming licences to new operators in 2002. "There are some regulatory uncertainties. The growth is so phenomenal that they want to cool it down a little,'' Ho said. "Their infrastructure is really not catching up.''
Inflation and the disparity of wealth in Macau recently triggered "ugly'' protests, Ho said. Labour costs have climbed about 20% in the past two years as developers fight for staff and construction workers, prompting the local government to stop issuing new casino licenses and permits.
The nearby province of Guangdong in May limited travel by its residents to Macau to once a month as the nation tries to curb growth in the city's high-roller gaming market. Mainland Chinese gamblers make up about 60% of Macau's visitors, with Hong Kong and Taiwan contributing most of the rest.
Macau CEO Edmund Ho said in April the special administrative district will stop granting new casino licenses and keep the number of operators at six "for a period." The government also will limit the number of gaming tables and slot machines for existing casino operators.
Melco Crown, a joint venture between Packer and Lawrence Ho, owns and runs the Crown Macau, which opened in May 2007, is developing a us$ 2.1 billion resort casino called City of Dreams and plans a third casino property, Trinity, in the former Portuguese colony. "It's a seasonal business, the gaming business, and the second half of the year, growth is always bigger than in the first half," Ho said. "If they don't do something now, it could grow to 90% growth year-on-year, and I think everybody would agree that's ridiculous."
Melco Crown Entertainment was renamed from Melco PBL Entertainment (Macau) in late May, after Packer split his Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd into separate casino and media holdings in December. His listed company is now known as Consolidated Media Holdings.