Casino hub Macau to shorten stay for transit visitors from mainland China

HONG KONG, June 17 Tue Jun 17, 2014 1:10am EDT

HONG KONG, June 17 (Reuters) - Macau will shorten the stay for Chinese passport holders who transit in the enclave to five days from seven with effect from July 1, to deter people from violating rules by remaining in the world's largest gambling hub and not travelling elsewhere.

The transit period would be cut further to one day, from two, for mainland Chinese travellers who breach the rules and re-visit the former Portuguese colony within 60 days, the Public Security Police Force of Macao S.A.R. announced on its website late on Monday.

In August 2008, the department adjusted the transit period for mainland visitors to seven days from 14.

For many years, politically linked tycoons and government officials were frequently spotted betting millions in the southern Chinese city's lavish VIP rooms. But their numbers have dwindled because of an anti-corruption campaign led by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Beijing is both subtly and openly making its presence known in Macau, a tiny metropolis about one-third the size of Manhattan, spread across a densely populated cluster of three land masses.

Any measures that would reduce the amount of Chinese money coming into Macau would impact the territory's economic growth because of its overwhelming dependence on mainland Chinese gamblers. Macau's gambling revenues grew by almost 20 percent in 2013 to $45 billion

Legislators in Macau, where gaming taxes account for over 80 percent of government revenues, believe the latest measure will do little to help solve the problem of mainland Chinese using the transit time to remain in the city and gamble, local Hong Kong media reported.

Shares of Macau gaming companies eased on Tuesday, with Galaxy Entertainment MGM China, Sands China and Wynn Macau all falling around 2 percent, lagging a 0.6 percent fall for the benchmark Hang Seng Index. (Editing by Anne Marie Roantree)