Sports betting in Macau's future?

February 26, 2008 10:17 PM
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Staff & wire reports | As Macau continues its metamorphosis as the "Las Vegas of the Orient," one element remains lacking in the cluster of glitzy casinos that have opened over the last couple of years – Las Vegas-like sports betting.

Indeed, missing from the picture when Macau casinos are compared with Las Vegas venues are the sports-fans grouped around plasma screens while watching and betting on continuously broadcast sporting events.

But that may change.

It’s been reported that William Hill, one of the largest bookmakers in the United Kingdom, is currently in talks with several Macau casinos – including those operated by Las Vegas gamers Steve Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Mirage.

A spokesman for William Hill confirmed his company is looking into setting up sports books in Macau, but wouldn’t reveal which casinos are in on the discussions.

"We are aware of the plans to change the existing Macau SB (sports-betting) regulation, which is interesting, but we have no specific plans as yet," said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams, adding that the company was currently in talks with "third parties."

While Adams was not prepared to give details of the third parties, industry observers have speculated the company is likely to be working with one of the Las Vegas-based operators.

William Hill operates 2,250 betting shops across the UK and Ireland and takes an average of more than 889,000 bets per day from its stores, telephone and internet service.

Macau’s sole sports betting concession is currently held by Sociedade de Lotarias e Apostas Mutuas de Macau, which brands itself as Macauslot.

It’s football and basketball betting license will expire in June next year and the Macau gaming industry is gearing-up for expected changes, including the issuing of additional licenses.

None of the three Las Vegas gaming companies who operate in Macau would confirm or deny their interest, if any, in opening or running a sports book in Macau.

As one executive put it, "It’s a little too early to speculate."

Try telling that to a die-hard sports bettor.