Tycoon Ho's group gets nod for new Macau casino

Hong Kong, Oct 20, 2012 (AFP) - Macau gaming tycoon Stanley Ho's SJM Holdings has been given the greenlight to build a new five-star casino resort in the former Portuguese colony, the world's biggest gambling hub, the firm has said.

SJM, Macau's largest casino operator by gaming revenue, said in a statement issued late on Friday that the approval came after it won a government land grant for a 70,468-square-metre (17.4 acre) site on the Cotai Strip.

Ambrose So, SJM's chief executive, described the new casino as a "milestone" development" for the firm as it will be its first venture on the developing strip, which already houses rivals Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment.

The new resort will include 700 gaming tables, 1,000 slot machines and a hotel with 2,000 rooms. Construction is expected to take three years.

The announcement came a day after MGM China Holdings -- a tie up between Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International and Ho's daughter, Pansy -- said it had received the go-ahead for a new $2.5 billion casino.

Macau's gambling revenue in September increased 12 percent year-on-year to 23.87 billion patacas ($2.99 billion), official statistics have shown. The city posted a 42 percent rise in gambling revenue in 2011 compared to 2010.

Semi-autonomous Macau, the only part of China where casino gambling is legal, overtook Las Vegas as the world's gaming capital in terms of revenue after the sector was opened up to foreign competition in 2002.

Six firms are licensed to operate casinos in Macau, which was handed back to Beijing in 1999.