Macau casino revenue last month totaled just MOP3.34 billion (US$413.7 million). While that’s a 25% improvement from April 2022, the gaming win was 87% below May 2019.
Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported that May gross gaming revenue (GGR) began a rebound from April, which marked the region’s lowest monthly total since September 2020. But with visitor traffic remaining light, GGR in what was the world’s richest gaming market prior to the pandemic remains greatly suppressed.
May 2022 represents a $2.8 billion reduction in gaming income compared with May 2019. Last month was also 68% below May 2021 when the six licensed casinos won approximately $1.3 billion on their gaming floors.
Through five months of 2022, GGR is at $2.9 billion. That’s down 44% year-over-year and 81% less than the same five months in 2019.
Market analysts say casino business will only substantially improve when mainland China more freely allows people to travel without COVID-19 testing requirements.
Macau Market Remains Unsettled
Macau casino stocks gained value during trading yesterday on news that Shanghai is ending its draconian lockdown that persisted for more than two months. With no recent COVID-19 deaths and new cases trending at their lowest levels since early March, China’s financial capital is no longer mandating its 25 million residents remain isolated to their homes except for essential trips.
Though pandemic conditions are improving on the mainland, China continues to adhere to its “zero COVID” policy that results in radical responses to coronavirus outbreaks. The pandemic strategy, paired with ongoing limitations on cross-border travel into Macau, continues to hamper the casinos, gaming analysts say.
May GGR shouldn’t come as a surprise given mobility curbs and weak travel sentiment (especially for cross-provincial and cross-border trips) in mainland China. We view these GGR prints as non-events until a reasonable level of traffic flow resumes with gradual easing of China’s travel/border policy,” a note from JPMorgan read.
A bit of that border easing came today with Macau authorities lengthening the validity of negative tests for entry from 72 hours to seven days.
However, travelers arriving by automobile or ferry from Guangdong remain limited to presenting a negative test conducted within the past 72 hours. The neighboring province delivers Macau more annual visitors than any other region in China.
Frequent Visitor Crackdown
Adding to the unease in Macau is China’s recent decision to limit the number of times known mainland gamblers are allowed to visit the casino hub. Last month, reports surfaced that mainland authorities began denying visa requests for Chinese citizens who frequent Macau specifically to gamble.
The COVID travel impediments and potential visa control on frequent gamblers may continue to impact near-term visitation and GGR,” a note issued today from Sanford C. Bernstein explained.
With cross-border travel remaining subjected to testing and China limiting the number of times a mainlander can visit Macau to gamble, Bernstein forecasts that June GGR will come in around MOP4.9 billion (US$610 million). While that would be a 47% improvement on May, the predicted June ’22 GGR would still be almost 80% below June 2019.
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