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Macau's SJM Holdings gets land for new casino

HONG KONG -- Casino operator SJM Holdings says it has signed a deal to buy land for a new casino in Macau, the world's biggest gambling market, giving it a chance to catch up with its rivals' rapid expansion.

The company founded by billionaire Stanley Ho said late Friday that it has accepted a contract to buy a plot of land in Cotai, the district earmarked for all future casino expansion in the former Portuguese colony.

SJM is paying nearly US$270 million for the land, on which it plans to build a 2,000-room hotel and casino with about 700 gambling tables and 1,000 slot machines. It said construction would take up to three years but did not say how much the project would cost.

After ending Ho's 40-year casino monopoly about a decade ago, Macau's casino revenues have surged due to an influx of high-rolling Chinese gamblers. The semiautonomous region, which is the only place in China where casinos are legal, raked in US$33.5 billion last year in gambling revenue, more than five times the amount earned on the Las Vegas Strip.

The deal means SJM will be able to catch up with rival operators that have invested billions in new mega-resorts in Cotai, an area of reclaimed land. The company operates 20 casinos already in Macau but most are small.

Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International's Macau unit also announced this past week that it received land in Cotai for a planned US$2.5 billion casino resort. Earlier this year, U.S. casino magnate Steve Wynn received approval for his first resort on Cotai. The Macau arm of billionaire Sheldon Adelson's casino company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., already operates three resorts on Cotai and is planning a fourth.

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