LAS VEGAS-Shares of locally based casino operators Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts Ltd. jumped Wednesday after the Macau Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported that first-quarter casino gaming revenue there is 44% higher than for the same 2006 period. Both publicly held companies have stakes in the booming Macau market, the only place in China where gambling is legal.

First-quarter gaming revenue in Macau rose to $2.22 billion in the first quarter of 2007, up from $1.54 billion in the first quarter of 2006, according data posted to the agency’s website. Some industry analysts told clients today the increased numbers show that concerns about sluggish growth in the segment are unfounded. They attributed the increase to both the expansion of existing casinos and the opening of new ones in the latter part of 2006.

In response, Las Vegas Sands share price traded as high as $91.62 before ending the day at $91.23, up $2.74 or 3.1% on the day. Wynn Resorts traded as high as $104.12 before ending the day at $103.34, up $2.55 or 2.5%. MGM, which is preparing to enter the market, traded as high as $74.34 before closing at $72.45, up $0.41 or 0.6% on the day.

Las Vegas Sands owns the Sands Macau, which opened an expanded casino floor last fall, and is working toward a summer 2007 opening for the $2.4-billion Venetian Macau. Wynn entered the market last fall with the $1.2-billion Wynn Macau. MGM Mirage is preparing to enter the market with the $1-billion MGM Grand Macau that it is developing through its partnership with Pansy Ho, daughter of billionaire Stanley Ho, which opened Grand Lisboa in Macau earlier this year.

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