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NEW YORK CITY-Ernst & Young recently published its annual Gaming Bulletin, which found the huge wave of capital that is entering the gaming industry has fueled sector growth across the globe. This is the 25th annual gaming report Ernst & Young has compiled.

E&Y’s global gaming services leader Brian Ford tells GlobeSt.com that gaming is seen increasingly as an acceptable form of entertainment. That changing perspective is causing acceleration across the globe.

“The new places, many of which were not exposed to gaming on a Las Vegas-level, are really showing astounding numbers,” Ford says, pointing to Macau, China as one such global leader. “In the past year, we’ve seen Macau surpass Las Vegas as the gaming center of the world, and we’ve seen the rest of the world surpass North America in terms of total number of gaming properties.”

Macau’s rise in popularity is due in part to its unique status as the only place in China where it is legal to gamble, Ford says. The city has 28 casinos, the two largest being the Sands Macau and Pharoah’s Palace Casino, and 2,973 slots, according to the report. That number is slated to grow rapidly in the years to come with six new casinos scheduled to open in 2007. It is also predicted that by 2009 Macau will have more than 30,000 hotel rooms.

North America still contains the greatest number of casinos–1,605, of which 1,496 are in the US. Western Europe comes in second with a total of 608 casinos. Still, Ford points out that many large cities do not have casinos in the close metro area. The gaming industry is watching Pennsylvania closely, because the local government there is trying to get two casinos on the planning boards for Philadelphia. Ford says this is further testament to gaming’s growing respectability.

But global growth won’t leave the US in the gaming gultch, and Ford says that companies looking for new locations and opportunities bodes well for the stateside gaming industry. US companies are now trying to attract global clients, and growth outside the US piques the interest of patrons to explore iconic Las Vegas.

The bulletin also gives details on the largest gaming companies in the world. Of the top five, four call the US home. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. ranks number one with a market cap of $30.2 billion. Next comes MGM Mirage at $19 billion and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., logging in at $15.6 billion.

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