Macau's gambling revenue soared 42 percent to a record $33.47 billion in 2011, official figures showed Tuesday, but the pace of growth in the world's biggest gaming hub slowed from a year earlier.
Gaming revenue jumped to 267.87 billion patacas ($33.47 billion) from 188.34 billion patacas ($23.53 billion) in 2010, according to statistics posted on the official Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau website.
The total is about five to six times higher than the amount that gamblers are thought to have spent on the Las Vegas Strip in 2011, according to Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.
But the figures represented a slight slowdown compared with 2010, which saw a 58 percent growth in revenue from 2009, amid intensifying concerns over slowing economic growth in China.
The Chinese city's spectacular rise to become the top gaming destination has been boosted by high-rollers from mainland China, and taken it past Las Vegas in gaming revenue while it continues to post record-breaking growth.
Gambling revenue rose 25 percent year-on-year to 23.61 billion patacas in December, the slowest growth rate of any month in 2011 despite the year-end holiday season.
Analysts said the slowdown in the pace of growth had been expected partly due to the very high haul it recorded in 2010.
"We think the 42 percent growth in 2011 was an incredible performance," Aaron Fischer, head of consumer and gaming research at brokerage CLSA told AFP.
"At the beginning of 2011, we had been expecting only 20 percent growth for the year," he said.
Fischer however warned that the outlook could be challenging for Macau as he forecasts a 15 percent growth in gambling revenue for 2012, and said many properties are operating at near-full capacity.
The former Portuguese colony -- which has six licensed casino operators -- has seen a sharp increase in revenue since mid-2009, when the global financial crisis dented business at the city's tables.
The boom in the gaming industry in Asia stands in sharp contrast to US venues such as Las Vegas, previously a byword for gambling but which is now suffering the effects of the global downturn.
PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report in December that Asia is poised to eclipse the United States as the world's biggest gaming market in 2013, powered by the region's growing economic prosperity and fondness for gambling.
Macau, which was handed back to China in 1999, is the only Chinese city where casino gambling is allowed. The gaming sector opened up to foreign competition in 2002.
The high growth however has also caused the Chinese and Macau governments to express concerns about the city's gambling-dependent economy and skyrocketing rents, with Beijing imposing visa restrictions on mainland citizens in 2009.