A survey predicts that gaming revenues in Asia could overtake U.S. earnings within four years, and Australia's economy has grown more strongly than expected this year, fueling concerns about inflation. Claudia Blume in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the Asia-Pacific region.
A survey by the American Gaming Association says gambling revenues in Asian casinos are likely to overtake those in the United States by 2012. Gaming revenue in the booming casino city Macau has already overtaken that of the Las Vegas Strip. Macau is expected to continue to be the market leader.
New casino developments in countries such as Singapore and Japan are expected to boost the industry's growth. Asian casinos currently have annual revenue of up to $20 billion, while U.S. casinos make about $34 billion.
In the first quarter of the year, Australia's economy grew at a stronger-than-expected annual rate of 3.6 percent. The expansion renewed fears that the economy is overheating. Strong demand from China and other emerging markets for Australian commodities have fueled growth and have contributed to rising prices.
The central bank has raised interest rates several times to fight inflation. Rates now stand at 7.25 percent, the highest level in more than a decade. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner says the fight against inflation is far from over.
"We are pleased that the growth figures show that growth is still robust, but it is very important to also understand that the inflation challenge is a very serious one," said Tanner.
In other news from Australia, national airline Qantas will reduce service to Japan and Southeast Asia because of surging fuel costs. Qantas will scrap flights from Melbourne to Tokyo, reduce the number of flights from Sydney to Tokyo and end flights by its subsidiary Jetstar from Cairns to the Japanese cities of Osaka and Nagoya. Jetstar also will stop flying from Sydney to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia will raise gasoline prices by 40 percent to .84 cents a liter. The old price was .60 cents a liter, one of the cheapest in Asia. The government is revamping its subsidy system, which has kept the price of fuel in Malaysia artificially low and has burdened the country's budget.
Government leaders say pump prices will be raised to market levels in August.