Galaxy Macau ready to enter the Asian casino fray

When it comes to building - and opening - new casinos, Asia doesn't like to do things by halves. And so, ahead of its May 15 opening, Galaxy Macau  is setting new standards for self-promotion as it readies to take its place in the southern Chinese enclave that has over the past decade established itself as the epicenter of the gaming world.

With more than 2,000 rooms, a rooftop 1.5-meter wave pool, 50-plus restaurants and bars and three hotels - representing the Singapore-based Banyan Tree, Okura Hotels and Resorts from Japan and the local Galaxy Hotel - you'd think the sheer size of Galaxy Macau would turn heads. But not even 550,000 square meters of Macau's Cotai Strip seems enough for management.

To ensure the resort grabs its slice of Asia's now lucrative gaming pie, they have taken over all the advertising space at nearby Hong Kong's sprawling Tsim Sha Tsui train station - the busiest in the city and one through which the majority of that city's tourism trade passes.

Advertising agents are claiming the move - which features around 10,000 square meters of ad space - is the ''largest metro station-wide advertising campaign in China, if not the world," and it is a sure indication of just how tense the battle is between Asia's gleaming new casinos. Combined with blanket newspaper and television advertsising coverage across Asia, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone here who doesn't know that Galaxy Macau is about to open.

Macau now has 33 casinos - which include gigantic resorts such as The Venetian Macao ( and the City of Dreams ( - and the city's gaming industry is coming off a record year which saw revenues from the industry top US$23.5 billion (16 billion euros). That figure compares to the US$5.8 billion (four billion euros) returned in 2010 in the city that for so long was considered untouchable as the world's gaming leader - Las Vegas.

Singapore has been the first Asian city to try to join Macau in tapping into the gaming market, and its two casinos - at Marina Bay Sands ( and Resorts World Sentosa ( - contributed gaming revenue of US$5.1 billion (3.5 billion euros) to the city last year - the first year both properties had been fully operational.

Interestingly, Marina Bay Sands this week posted a drop in pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 2011 - but still managed to walk away with US$284.5 million (196 million euro). That was a seven percent drop from the final quarter of last year - and Marina Bay Sands management put it all simply down to a case of 'bad luck' on the tables.

Both Macau and Singapore recorded record numbers of visitors last year - 25 million to Macau and almost 12 million to Singapore - figures obviously noted by countries such as Vietnam and Fiji, which are both now planning to increase their own gaming industries over the next decade.

As the battle for the gaming dollar intensifies, so does the resorts' efforts to lure visitors with more than just an opportunity to chance their luck at the tables. The major properties in both Macau and Singapore offer nightly circus acts as well as concerts by the world's top entertainers, while for its part Galaxy Macau is offering that wave pool - with its own artifical beach - as well as Macau's first massive multiplex cinema, scheduled to open later in the year.