Casino Stocks Rise on Report of Relaxed Macau Visa Rules

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Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International rose, aided by reports that China eased restrictions on local tourists visiting Macau, rare good news following a year of declining play at casinos there.

Travelers holding mainland China passports can now stay seven days in Macau, up from five days currently, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The change may alleviate a freefall in betting in the world’s largest casino market. The government shortened the permitted stay last year in response to what was believed to be widespread cheating on the part of visa holders who claimed to be visiting another destination while only staying in Macau.

“High-frequency gamblers across segments can now visit twice every 30 days vs. twice every 60 days,” Anthony Wong, a UBS Securities analyst, wrote in a note to investors. The change “might also suggest that current demand has reached a level the government feels a need to act to support it from falling further.”

Melco Crown Entertainment gained 9.7 percent to $19.63 at the close in New York. Las Vegas Sands, the world’s largest casino company, added 4.9 percent to $52.57, while Wynn Resorts rose 5.1 percent to $98.67. MGM Resorts, which is also facing a call to restructure from an activist investor, added 3.8 percent to $18.25.

A year-long slump in the Macau market reduced gambling revenue by 24 percent to 289.9 billion patacas ($36.3 billion) in the 12 months through May, according to a CBRE Inc. analysis. June results, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday, may fall 38 percent. That’s the median estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Government Crackdown

The market has been hammered by a government crackdown on corruption that caused wealthy Chinese to cut back on conspicuous consumption. Macau officials Tuesday implemented a full smoking ban in casinos that is expected to further crimp spending.

Mainland China accounts for two-thirds of Macau’s visitors, according to the Macau Government Tourist Office. Their numbers fell 3.1 percent to 8.3 million this year through May.

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