A crackdown on gambling in Guangdong has coincided with a surprise rebound in Macau's casino income in the first quarter. Police raided underground casinos and seized slot machines and baccarat tables in various Guangdong cities as part of a province-wide anti-crime operation that began in January. The anti-gambling crackdown was a key part of the operation, known as 'Yue An 09' (Guangdong Safety 09), which also targeted organised crime, drugs and other threats. In Foshan , where illegal gambling is believed rampant, police smashed 105 underground casinos. In late March, police raided a 500 square metre casino in a warehouse between Foshan and Guangzhou. Seventy-one people were arrested and chips worth 4 million yuan (HK$4.5 million) were seized. Two underground casinos were busted in Shenzhen, while slot machines were seized in Zhanjiang and Zhaoqing . The Communist Party boss of a Foshan village was jailed for life in January for embezzling 19 million yuan to gamble in Macau. A Zhuhai court last month sentenced a 23-year-old man to 15 years for running 10 casinos. Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the crackdown on gambling and other crimes might be connected with the central government's concern about public order ahead of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. In the first quarter, Macau's gaming revenue showed a turnaround after three quarters of declines. Casino revenue was 26.02 billion patacas in the first three months, according to the Macau Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau. That was down 12.76 per cent from a record a year earlier but, significantly, represented an 8.06 per cent increase from revenue booked in the final quarter of last year. Travel curbs imposed by Beijing on mainlanders visiting Macau have dealt a heavy blow to Macau's gaming industry. Political commentator and academic Larry So Man-yum said the mass-market revenue of Macau casinos was likely to benefit from the mainland's crackdown. 'Those who visit underground casinos are mostly ordinary punters rather than high rollers,' Professor So said. 'The latest statistics show that Macau's mass market has held up alright.' Revenue from VIP baccarat was 16.83 billion patacas in the first three months of the year, accounting for 64.7 per cent of the market. The figure was down 19.1 per cent from a year ago but up 7.76 per cent from the fourth quarter of last year - the first rise in three quarters. The non-VIP market, which revolves more around tourists, proved more resilient. Mass-market revenue rose a modest 1.87 per cent from a year ago and 8.61 per cent from the fourth quarter to 9.19 billion patacas. In early 2005, a mainland-wide crackdown on gambling appeared to boost Macau's casino business. Professor Hu said crackdowns might only have a short-term effect in limiting mainlanders' gambling. 'Many Chinese residents' penchant for gambling stems from their strong desire for overnight wealth,' he said. 'The crackdown tends to cause gambling activities to go underground and involve organised crime.' Professor Hu suggested the mainland should legalise casino gambling in restricted areas, preferably low-income regions in western China.