UPDATE 1-Macau gambling revenue up 17.6 percent in August yr/yr
HONG KONG, Sep 2 (Reuters) - Gambling revenue in Macau rose 17.6 percent in August year-on-year, buoyed by a steady flow of wealthy Chinese punters to China's only legal casino hub.
August's revenue of 30.7 billion patacas ($3.88 billion) was the second strongest figure this year, according to government data released on Monday. Analysts had forecast August growth in the world's biggest gambling market to be up 17-19 percent.
A Portuguese colony until 1999, Macau's gambling revenues are closely twinned with China's economy as more than two-thirds of its visitors coming from the mainland.
Analysts are mostly bullish on Macau, citing low penetration among China's 1.3 billion citizens and strong consumer sentiment despite a slow down in the growth of the world's second-largest economy.
The bulk of visitors entering Macau are termed "mass market" spenders, and these tourists are increasing in numbers at a faster pace compared to VIP spenders who bet 1 million yuan ($163,400) at a time.
Casino operators are keen to reduce their reliance on these high rollers, who currently pull in close to 70 percent of total gambling revenue.
Over the past year, casinos have been vying to attract "premium mass" customers or members of China's growing upper-middle class who spend anywhere from a few thousand yuan to under one million.
Premium mass customers are highly sought after because they generate higher margins and more stable revenue than the super-rich gamblers.