By KELVIN CHAN, Associated Press
HONG KONG (AP) — Casino revenue in Macau, the world's biggest gambling market, grew last month at the slowest pace since the global recession in 2009 as China's economic slowdown crimped demand from high-rolling gamblers.
Macau gambling authorities released data Wednesday that showed July revenue rose to 24.58 billion patacas ($3.1 billion), up 1.5 percent compared with a year earlier and the lowest growth rate since mid-2009.
Macau casino revenues have rocketed in recent years thanks to legions of mainland Chinese high-rollers. In 2011, revenue soared 42 percent to $33.5 billion, more than five times the amount earned on the Las Vegas Strip.
But growth has trailed off in recent months as China's economy slows. July's numbers were also hurt by Typhoon Vicente, the strongest storm to hit Hong Kong in 13 years. The typhoon temporarily halted ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau.
Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. Since a four-decade casino monopoly ended in 2002, the city has been transformed from a sleepy and seedy former Portuguese colonial outpost into an Asian gambling powerhouse. But its fortunes have been highly dependent on wealthy Chinese gamblers.
Citing the slowdown in China, the world's second biggest economy, Fitch Ratings last month cut its Macau gambling revenue growth forecast for 2012 for a second time to 10-12 percent from 15 percent.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.