Gambling Trend

DANANG, March 20, 2011 (AFP) – The gambler leans back comfortably in his chair at a card table inside Vietnam’s new Crown casino, waiting for his female companion to fetch more cash. At Asia’s casinos, the money just keeps on coming.

Analysts say the region’s increasing wealth is funding a gambling boom that saw Macau overtake Las Vegas in casino revenue, is putting billions of dollars into Singapore’s coffers and encouraged operators like Crown to try cashing in, although for now only foreigners are allowed in Vietnam’s casinos.

Crown is owned by Hoang Dat Silver Shores, which is backed by a US-based Chinese national.

While Macau remains by far the region’s largest casino market, governments from Sri Lanka to Fiji are also eyeing gambling parlours as a way to help attract more tourist dollars.

“The key drivers are rising incomes and pent-up demand for gaming, considering the high appetite to gamble in many Asian cultures,” says Aaron Fischer, a gaming analyst at CLSA brokerage in Hong Kong. Casinos in the southern Chinese enclave of Macau earned a record $23.5 billion last year, up about 58 percent from 2009, according to official figures.

Fuelled by Chinese