Macau Gambling Growth Misses Expectations

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(Reuters) - Macau's gambling revenue growth rebounded last month from May, though the increase was slower than expected, signaling muted spending in the world's largest gambling destination.

Revenue rose 12.2 percent from a year earlier to 23.3 billion patacas ($2.92 billion) in June, faster than May's 7.3 percent gain, government data showed on Monday. Analysts had expected a 15 percent increase.

Faltering demand and rising credit woes in China are curbing the spending of Macau's key customers - the billionaire VIP gamblers who drop millions of yuan at a time. Macau is the only place where Chinese nationals are allowed to legally gamble in casinos.

With July and August typically quieter months, appetite may not pick up until September ahead of a new property opening and a national holiday.

Sentiment for Macau gambling stocks has waned in recent months and was further hurt after a local paper said the Chinese government was imposing new visa restrictions to reduce the flow of mainland visitors.

Other negative news in the past week included a rare case of violence where a Macau businessman was beaten by six people in his own casino. The incident was a reminder of the dangers associated with Macau's lucrative casino industry, which has a history of Chinese gang, or triad, wars. Residents say it was an internal dispute unlikely to be repeated elsewhere.

Despite the slower growth, analysts said they remain bullish on Macau in the medium term.

Many however have in the last month downgraded their full-year growth targets and warned of lower quarterly earnings for the six licensed operators including Wynn Resorts' (WYNN.O) Macau unit, Wynn Macau, and MGM Resorts' (MGM.N) MGM China (2282.HK).

Located on the heel of China's southern coast, Macau has been a key beneficiary of the mainland's once turbo-charged growth, making the tiny enclave one of the world's fastest-growing economies last year.

Gambling revenue growth is expected to be around 15 percent overall for 2012 compared with earlier forecasts of 25 percent growth.

A new $4 billion casino opened in April this year that was developed by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Las Vegas businessman who controls Las Vegas Sands (LVS.N) and Sands China (1928.HK). Adelson's new Sheraton property will open in September.

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