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Jan 1 - Gambling revenue in Macau rose 14 percent in 2018, the second consecutive year of gain as demand to wager in the Chinese territory continued to rebound from a prolonged slump.
December was also the 29th straight month where revenue in China's only legal gambling hub rose versus the same month a year prior, according to data released on Tuesday by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination bureau.
Revenue rose 16.6 percent to 26.47 billion patacas ($3.3 billion) versus the 10-15 percent estimates of analysts polled by Reuters. Revenue for the full year was 302.85 billion patacas ($37.6 billion).
Revenue has stabilised since a period of decline, which coincided with a central government campaign against conspicuous spending among public officials.
However, a Sino-U.S. trade war and slowing Chinese economy will likely weigh on sentiment in the high-roller VIP segment, keeping any further revenue gains checked, analysts said.
Nevertheless, casino executives are bullish on the potential benefits from the opening last year of the world's longest sea-crossing bridge and tunnel, linking Macau to the financial centre of Hong Kong and mainland China's Pearl River Delta.
Authorities also hope the bridge will boost the development of Macau's convention and exhibition business and increase overnight visitation numbers, both of which help drive non-gaming revenue in the gambling-dependent territory.
The special administrative region has been encouraging casino operators to diversify to help broaden its economic base. At present, tax from casinos accounts for over 80 percent of the Macau government's total revenue.
$1 = 8.0630 patacas Reporting by Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Stephen Coates