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Macau Takes Some Bets Off The Table

A large theme this summer in Macau has been decreasing the role of gaming in the economy. I think this drive is one of the reasons for the recent Taiwanese visit to the SAR. It gave Macau a bit of non-gaming news for once. The move is kind of odd for a place that once billed itself as the Vegas of Asia, a city, arguably, founded on gaming and proud of it.

The details can be found in this article that came out in the spring. In short Macau will only allow 500 more gaming tables, yet the casinos to be opened up next year are designed for 1,300, or 800 tables short. This leads to another problem. The casinos are being developed by two companies, Galaxy Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands Corp., officially dividing the limited tables to them will be a whole bailiwick of hurt feelings and bad press.

There is talk that some Cotai projects might be stalled as part of this refocus - trouble for Wynn, MGM, and SJM parcels that have yet to break ground. In the alternate reality known as Macau, this strangely raises the value of the "under construction" Macao Studio City complex, a three years abandoned plot containing podium pilings for an assumedly approved building. Selling it to one of the potentially jilted three, or calling Mr. Loveman to shore up its chronically poor finances, might be a perfect exit strategy for non-starting owners eSun Holdings.

So if you are a Sands or Galaxy, what will you do with the limited amount of tables allowed? All that space and few tables to put in them. My thoughts order from best to worst for the operator.

1. A change of heart - Macau gaming regulators simply change their minds and up the table limits, or at least to accommodate the soon to be completed casinos. This would have to be multi-month project however, and may not happen before openings. Look for statements from the government about how vital gaming is to Macau if this is to happen.

2. Rush to get tables in now to meet the quota - In this cold war like scenario each casino adds tables now in existing casinos, profitable or not, to quickly grab their share of the of the table quota. This may include removing slots. No clear edge here I think. Sands had yet to fill the entire casino floor of the massive Venetian. Meanwhile Galaxy's regal yet forlorn lady, the Grand Waldo, sits almost deserted at the wrong end of Cotai.

3. Moving existing tables - This is somewhat in connection with the above, but there are some tables just not being properly used know. Really what I am talking about here is whole floors of seldom visited tables in Uncle Sheldon's Box of Baccarat.

4. Converting existing tables - How about mini-baccarat tables that serve 10 instead of 8? Or full tables, which take more floor space, staff, and players? More disturbing for your dice-fondling writer, conversion of table games, like craps, to the ever popular and ubiquitous mini-baccarat tables.

5. Robotic games - When is a table not a table? When its virtual! I do not believe video-simulated dealing games count as a "table" under the quota. We might see an explosion of these electronic games. Macau might give these systems their first real test outside the handful of places in the US and other places. In a few years, you might be thanking Mr. Roboto at the end of your day in Macau.

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