December 17, 2008

Small Macau—Big Fortune

Texas Hold 'em poker is coming to Macau.

Officials in the booming southern China gambling enclave have authorized local casinos to offer the popular card game for the first time, and the territory's leading gaming operator said Friday that it's rolling out the game at its main property.

Grand Lisboa, the flagship of casino mogul Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau or SJM, has inaugurated four new tables dedicated to Texas Hold 'em, a company spokeswoman said.

Interest in poker, particularly Texas Hold 'em, has exploded in the United States in the past few years with the advent of televised tournaments such as the World Series of Poker. It has also gained popularity in mainland China, a major source of punters for Macau.

"We are confident that Texas Hold 'em will become very popular here. It is popular in Europe and in the U.S. and there are international Texas Hold 'em Poker tournaments every year," Louis Ng, SJM's director and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Macau's government issued the rules approving Texas Hold 'em earlier this week.

The new rules allow the house to collect a commission of 3 percent to 5 percent of the betting pool for each game.

Ho held a monopoly on casinos in Macau until 2002. Since then, the government has handed out other gaming licenses, which attracted top Las Vegas operators to open luxury resorts in Macau targeting China's newly wealthy.

Las Vegas casino operators Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Grand did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment on whether they will offer Texas Hold 'em at their Macau properties.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Hong Kong, returned to Chinese rule in 1999. In 2006 it raked in more gaming revenue than the Las Vegas Strip, according to regulators in the two locations.

No comments: