Macau gambling revenue rises 18 pct in March as high rollers return

HONG KONG, April 1 (Reuters) - Revenues from gambling in

Macau rose 18 percent in March, beating expectations and posting

an eighth consecutive monthly increase as wealthy gamblers took

their chances in China's only legal casino hub - the world's

biggest.

Gambling revenue in the southern Chinese territory rose to

21.2 billion patacas ($2.6 billion), government data showed on

Saturday. Analysts were expecting growth of between 12 percent

and 16 percent.

Macau's gambling revenues have surged since second-half 2016

with the opening of new resorts helping to draw high rollers and

more casual gamblers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's campaign against shows of

wealth by public officials in 2014 had dried up the stream of

VIP spenders from the mainland.

Analysts remain cautious on the sustainability of revenues

from the VIP market but have called a bottom to a slump that has

afflicted Macau for more than two years.

Overseas visitors are an increasingly common sight in Macau

which is trying to diversify an economic model that has depended

on mainland high rollers for more than a decade.

($1 = 7.9810 patacas)

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Writing by Farah Master;

Editing by Eric Meijer)