Macau casino revenues take a hit from Hong Kong protests

by Administrator
  • President Xi Jinping’s visit to Macau this month for the 20th anniversary of its handover from Portugal is likely to squeeze revenues further as tightened visa policies deter visitors
  • Gross revenues of US$2.8 billion for November were better than analysts’ expectations of a drop between 10-13 per cent

Macau casinos showed further weakness in November as the world’s largest gambling hub heads towards its first annual revenue decline in three years, hit by lacklustre demand from high roller gamblers because of slowing growth amid the ongoing US-China trade war and protests in Hong Kong.

Gross gaming revenue was 22.9 billion patacas (US$2.8 billion) last month, down 8.5 per cent from a year earlier, according to data from the Gaming Inspection & Coordination Bureau.

The second weakest figure of this year comes as some high roller players delay trips to Macau, analysts said.

The figure was better than analyst expectations of a drop between 10-13 per cent. It was down from October’s haul of 26.4 billion patacas which had been the highest figure in 2019. Year-to-date revenue is down 2.4 per cent.

While protests in the Asian financial hub of Hong Kong have caused transport disruption and deterred travel to the former British colony and then on to Macau, analysts and executives say the impact on gaming revenues has been minimal.

However, the protests have added to other factors such as a softening Chinese economy and weakness in the Chinese yuan currency.

Tightened liquidity in the high roller VIP sector because of an attack by Chinese state media on Macau’s biggest junket operator Suncity, have also affected demand from big punters.

President Xi Jinping is due to visit Macau in December to mark 20 years under Chinese rule, an event that analysts say is likely to put further pressure on VIP gaming revenues as big whales put off visits.

Visa policies to Macau have been tightened ahead of Xi’s visit, according to Credit Suisse Group analyst Kenneth Fong, which is likely to put further pressure on gaming revenues in December.

While the short-term outlook is difficult to predict, analysts expect a mild improvement for Macau in 2020, with gaming revenue helped by easier comparisons and some pent-up demand. Estimates are for a 3 per cent increase – still a long way from the double-digit jumps in 2017 and 2018.