March 15, 2010 / 10:04 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Casino shares dip ahead of Macau official's speech

* Chui to debut 2010 policy plan

* Las Vegas Sands shares fall 4.6 percent

(Recasts, adds details of MGM lawsuit)

LOS ANGELES, March 15 (Reuters) - The shares of casino companies operating in Macau fell on Monday on wariness that the Chinese city’s new chief executive could unveil a 2010 policy plan that caps its fast-growing gambling industry.

The address by Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui, who was sworn in to the post in December, is likely to include plans for the future, according to local news reports.

The former Portuguese enclave posted a statement last October on its official website flagging plans to draft rules that would impose limits on table games and raise the gambling age in Macau, the only place in China where gambling is legal.

Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N) shares fell 4.6 percent to close at $18.69 on Monday, while MGM Mirage (MGM.N) dropped 3.6 percent to close at $11.38 and Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O) fell 1.4 percent to close at $70.47.

“I think some folks out there are concerned that the new chief executive may be utilizing some specific language about needing to diversify or cap the growth in Macau,” said Stern Agee analyst David Bain.

MGM shares were also under pressure after the company disclosed late on Friday that the general contractor for its $8.5 billion CityCenter joint venture on the Las Vegas Strip planned to sue for $492 million in unpaid construction bills.

Bain also said market chatter about the Chinese government acting to tighten monetary policy helped push the shares of Macau casino operators lower.

Sands owns and operates two casinos in Macau and is in the process of building new sites in a section of the city known as the Cotai Strip. Wynn will open its second Macau casino next month and MGM is laying the groundwork for a public offering of its Macau joint venture.

Sands, with Sands China Ltd (1928.HK), and Wynn, with Wynn Macau Ltd (1128.HK), have already held public offerings for stakes in their Macau operations.

Gambling revenue in Macau, which passed Las Vegas several years ago to become the world’s No. 1 gambling center, rose nearly 70 percent in both January and February of this year, compared with a year earlier.

In the past, the Chinese government has turned off the spigot in Macau by capping the number of visas allowing mainland Chinese to visit the gambling center.

The possible limits on table games are seen by some casino executives as a way to encourage growth of non-gambling operations.

“We don’t view table caps as necessarily something that is negative,” Bain said. “It stops lesser competitors from flooding the market with tables.”

He also said the Chinese government may hold off on any changes in its Macau policy until there is more clarity on the potential impact of the opening in late April of Sands’ new casino-resort in Singapore. (Reporting by Deena Beasley; editing by Andre Grenon)

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