Macau eyes online gaming market

Mar 4, 2008 7:00 AM

Staff & Wire Reports | Last week GamingToday reported casinos in Macau may be considering adding sports betting to their menu of offerings – a possibility confirmed by at least one operator, Wynn Las Vegas.

Now, Macau casinos are exploring the possibility of offering online gaming in the event Mainland China legalizes Internet betting.

Specifically, the Galaxy Entertainment Group is reportedly seeking an online gaming deal, according to Francis Lui, Galaxy’s deputy chairman.

Speaking at the Asian i-Gaming conference at the Venetian Macao, Lui said the company was already making moves to capture the potentially huge business.

"Galaxy is very excited by this business opportunity (online gaming in the Mainland) and we have established a foundation through an agreement with an Internet cafe operator in China," he said.

Online bettors in Asia are used to paying and playing at Internet cafes, which provide a convenient location for gaming sites to sell online credits.

However, most forms of gaming continue to remain outlawed in the Mainland, including online betting. Although the Chinese propensity for gambling could eventually see a change in position from the government, Lui suggested.

"There is undoubtedly a latent demand for online gambling and in time the market could open up to a limited number of operators located in China," Lui said.

The Mainland has 67 million Internet hosts, 167 million Internet users and more than 450 million mobile phone users, the deputy chairman presented during the conference’s key-note address.

In the event of a policy change, casinos in Macau would be ideally positioned to provide the Mainland government with a controlled gaming model, he continued.

"Gambling in all markets is highly regulated and government will naturally seek assurances on under-age participation, problem gambling, content management and probity, prior to advancing the debate," he said, adding that casino operators such as Galaxy Entertainment have the necessary experience in dealing with government and providing the required assurances.

"Online gaming should be introduced as an extension to land-based casinos," Lui said.