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Macau casino shares hit after visa changes rumors

21 August 2008

HONG KONG -- As reported by the Wall Street Journal: "Major casino operators have prospered in Macau's fast-growing gambling market. But uncertainty over Beijing's policies is showing the flip side to that success.

"Shares of Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Mirage and others tumbled this week after Portuguese news service Lusa reported that Beijing might make it harder for mainland Chinese to visit the one part of the country where gambling is legal. The report couldn't be verified.

"...U.S. casino operators already face factors -- including a clenched credit market, cash-strapped consumers and rising fuel costs -- that have contributed to declining gambling revenues and taken a toll on their stocks. Wednesday in New York, Las Vegas Sands fell 8.2% after finishing down 11% Tuesday, while MGM Mirage was down 0.6%, after dropping 9.4% the day earlier. Both stocks are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. On the Nasdaq Stock Market, shares of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. fell 3.1% after falling 11% Tuesday, and Wynn Resorts Ltd. shares fell 4.4%, after shedding 4.3%.

"...According to the report, the central government might soon allow mainland Chinese to visit Macau only once every six months. Current rules allow them to visit once every two months.

"...Starting Sept. 1, mainlanders who visit Hong Kong will no longer be able to travel freely from Hong Kong to Macau, an hour's ferry ride to the west, according to Macau public-security officials..."

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