Macau casino gaming revenue down 90% in August

Macau casino gaming revenue grew by two-thirds in August from the previous month, but nonetheless posted its sixth straight month of at least 90% year-on-year declines.

Figures released Thursday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) show casino gaming revenue of MOP2.2b (US$277m) in August, a 90% fall from the same month last year. For the year-to-date, gaming revenue is down 82.5% to MOP38.6b.

Glass half-full types will note that August’s revenue was 66.2% better than July 2020’s result, and while the annual decline was 90% on the nose, that’s 3.2 points lower than May’s 93.2% annual decline, which until this point was the lowest 90-plus negative score since April.

But August’s sum was lower than most analysts had forecast, given that China had authorized the resumption of travel visas from Guangdong province – Macau’s primary source of gamblers – in late August. Hopes are high that the extension of this visa relaxation to the rest of China on September 23 may help boost October’s stats.

Hong Kong’s government announced this week that it was preparing to authorize its residents to travel to both Macau and the mainland in a “gradual and orderly manner.” The government offered no specifics on when the change might occur, although it’s been suggested it could happen a week after the annual Golden Week holiday, which started October 1.

In normal years, Golden Week would result in a flood of gamblers from the mainland into Macau casinos. But expectations are that ongoing reluctance of mainland residents to travel – in part due to COVID-19 testing requirements to obtain a visa – will at best cut this year’s holiday visitation in half.

The Macau Daily Times reported Thursday that at least one ‘popular’ hotel on the Cotai Strip was fully booked ahead of Golden Week, while other five-star hotels had as few as 400 out of 2,000 rooms spoken for. The average occupancy rate is said to be hovering between 30% to 40%, better than previous estimates of as low as 20% occupancy.

A week ago, Air Macau stated that Golden Week flight bookings were only 20% of capacity, although this represented a two- or three-fold increase over occupancy rates in recent months.

Interestingly, of the few individuals currently risking the trek, a survey by the Macau Research Center found that only 16.8% came to Macau primarily to gamble. By contrast, 21.5% cited general tourism interests and 51.4% cited shopping as their main motivation. That said, nearly one-third (31.8%) did gamble during their trip, spending an average of MOP16,022 ($2,007) on this activity.

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