Macau's Galaxy to double size of casino by 2015

Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group said Thursday it will spend $2 billion to double the size of its flagship resort by mid-2015.

The firm said construction for the second phase of Galaxy Macau, which opened in May last year, had started and would expand the size of the property to 1.0 million square metres (10.8 million square feet).

The project will include the addition of two new luxury hotels, more retail stores and 500 more gambling tables.

"These developments will serve as a catalyst for future growth and diversification of Macau's tourism and leisure market," the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where it is listed.

Galaxy is one of six firms licensed to operate casinos in Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub that was handed back to Beijing in 1999 and remains the only Chinese city where casino gambling is allowed.

The city's no-frills gaming scene was monopolised by 89-year-old tycoon Stanley Ho for decades until it opened to foreign competition in 2002.

Since then, a stream of Las Vegas-based companies have flooded into the southern Chinese city, lured by the massive market of gambling-mad visitors from nearby Hong Kong and mainland China.

Las Vegas Sands opened its fourth casino in the city on April 11, transforming a "swamp" earmarked for a fireworks factory into a $5 billion integrated resort.

Macau's gambling revenue soared 42 percent to a record $33.47 billion in 2011, but the pace of growth slowed from a year earlier, according to official figures.

The total is about five to six times higher than the amount that gamblers are thought to have spent on the Las Vegas Strip in 2011, according to Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.

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