Good Times Returning in Macau?

After spending a couple of years in decline, there are signs of growth in Macau once again.

Resurgence in Macau as gaming revenue increases

Monday saw the release of revenue figures for April by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, with significant increases shown in terms of market-wide gaming revenue, which rose 16.3% year-on-year to MOP 20.16 billion, which equates to US$2.5 billion. Also, Macau‘s gaming revenue has grown to MOP 83.64, which is an increase of 13.8% compared to this time last year.

Macau Skyline

Bright future ahead

Lawrence Ho, who is Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Melco Resorts &a Entertainment Ltd is highly confident that this upturn is more than just a temporary anomaly, and said the following about the subject in an interview with Bloomberg:

“Definitely within the next five years, it will grow back to the $45 billion gaming market. And that’s just the gaming alone, because the non-gaming part is significant”.

The $45 billion mark that Lawrence Ho mentions is the point at which Macau‘s revenue was at its strongest four years ago. Factors such as a slowing Chinese economy and increased scrutiny around wealthy people playing in Macau created an exodus of big money players from Macau, creating a downturn that lasted twenty months.

VIP money flows into Macau again

One of the most pivotal factors in the recent growth in Macau is the return of VIP players. Junket operators have noticed an increase in deposits made by VIP customers which has generated more revenue, but also lead to renewed attention from mainland China in the coming months.

Upturn also seen on a mass-market level

Q1 of 2017 has seen an 8.5% rise in mass-market revenue, with the current value reported as MOP 28 billion. The previous two quarters also saw gains year-on-year, suggesting a stable path of growth may lie ahead, assuming nothing hampers the return of VIP customers. Two new casinos have opened recently, which appears to be fueling growth. The $4.1 billion Wynn Palace Casino Resort opened in August in Cotai, and Parisian Macau Resort was opened by Sands in September, with a further casino set to be opened by MGM before the end of 2017.

Mass-market revenue is not the most significant form of income for Macau, as table games have always been strongly preferred by customers, which contrasts with the Las Vegas model, in which tourists spend money across many different areas of the market (Slot Machines, Video Poker, Entertainment), creating a more balanced revenue stream. China hopes to see Macau adopt a similar approach rather than being so dependent on a small number of VIP players.

Where next for Macau?

Provided interference from Beijing remains minimal, optimistic views about growth in Macau are well founded. Zhang Dejiang, who is one of the state’s top leaders, will undertake a trip to Macau between May 8th and May 10th. Those inside the casino industry understand that a major announcement will be made during the visit, which may offer greater clarity in terms of growth in the rest of this year and beyond.

Operators remain interested in other Asian locations, with rule changes in Vietnam allowing locals to enter certain casinos generating interest from operators looking to pursue projects there. Japan is without doubt the prime location for most operators though, with Lawrence Ho claiming that two casino resorts in either Osaka or Yokohama could easily grow into a US$20 billion market.

When pressed on how much he might spend to gain a license there, he said “We don’t want to put a dollar figure on it because ultimately, the opportunity is priceless”.

Article By Craig Bradshaw