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MGM Resorts opens $3.4 bln casino in Macau as revenues boom

MACAU, Feb 13 (Reuters) - MGM Resorts opens its $3.4 billion casino resort in the Chinese-controlled territory of Macau on Tuesday, just days ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, hoping to ride a boom in business in the world's biggest gaming hub.

MGM Cotai, which will more than triple the number of MGM's hotel rooms in the former Portuguese colony to 1,972, marks a major expansion into hospitality amid uncertainty over the renewal process of its casino license that expires in two years.

The new resort, MGM's second and the biggest investment in Macau, boasts a 2,000-seat theatre and artwork including 28 carpets from the Qing dynasty. It will increase MGM's overall gaming table count in the hub by 29 percent to 552.

MGM is one of six licensed casino operators in the special administrative region located on the heel of China's southern coast, and it is the only place in the country where citizens are allowed to gamble legally.

But MGM's license is due to expire in 2020 along with SJM Holdings, while licenses for Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts are set to expire in 2022.

Macau authorities have provided little information about whether, and how, the licenses will be renewed.

Ahead of the expirations, operators including MGM have tried to diversify into non-gaming to pacify Beijing which has been increasingly wary of Macau's acute reliance on gambling, which accounts for more than 80 percent of its revenues.

MGM Cotai, operated by the company's Macau unit MGM China , will open with around 177 mass gaming tables, according to analysts, with VIP gaming mostly handled by middlemen junkets set to open by the end of the second quarter along with the resort's luxury mansion villas.

The opening comes at a time of surging casino revenues. Macau's January numbers stormed past expectations with a 36 percent year-on-year jump, the 18th such gain in a row, on demand from big whale gamblers and mom-and-pop mass punters. (Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Himani Sarkar)