HONG KONG, March 7 China's balmy holiday island
of Hainan, long touted as a place where the country could
liberalise gambling, will not permit casinos, senior officials
announced this week.
The decision may dampen investment appetite from scores of
international and national developers betting on stellar profits
in the southern province.
Luo Baoming, Hainan's Communist Party chief, and Wang Yong,
the mayor of resort city Sanya, told a briefing at China's
annual parliamentary meeting on Thursday that casinos will never
be allowed to operate there.
"We cannot at all allow Hainan to operate casinos," Luo said
according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Casino gambling is illegal in China outside of the former
Portuguese colony of Macau, an hour's flight from Hainan by
plane. In 2013, the local government on Hainan shut down a
casino bar that had been operating illegally after a Reuters
report drew attention to it.
Hainan has attracted scores of international developers in
the past two years, including InterContinental Hotels Group Plc
, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, and
casino operators MGM Resorts International and Caesars
Entertainment, who are eyeing a surge in upscale tourism
in the country.
Sanya already has more than 200 hotels and an aggressive
pipeline for future developments with many operators eyeing the
potential for future casino liberalisation.
Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd and
Sol Kerzner, South Africa's Sun City casino king, in October
announced plans to build a $1.6 billion Atlantis resort at
Haitang Bay, a 22 kilometre strip of white sand that will see
the development of 30 five-star hotels in the next five
Across Asia, from the Philippines to South Korea, countries
are building large scale casino resorts to spur growth and
increase tourism revenues after the success of Macau and
Sanya's coastal location, which boasts cleaner air and ample
space, has been a huge draw for domestic tourists with more than
22 million overnight stays registered in Hainan in the first
eight months of 2013.