Macau Casino Shares Advance as Gambling Revenue Slump Eased

Macau's Casino Revenue Extended Fall in October
  • October gaming revenue drops 28.4% from previous year
  • Falling rate was smallest since January 2015's 17.4% drop

Casino shares rose in Hong Kong trading after Macau reported gaming revenue that fell at the slowest pace since January, giving hope the 17-month long slump in the world’s largest center of gambling may be starting to ease.

“The figure can be viewed as the beginning of a ‘less bad environment’, ” Vitaly Umansky, a gaming analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a note after the data was released. October was also the first month since January where the gaming revenue fell at a rate below 30 percent, he added.

Gross gaming revenue fell 28.4 percent year on year to 20.1 billion patacas ($2.5 billion) in October, according to data released by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. The decline was at the slowest pace since January, when revenue fell 17.4 percent, and compared with the median estimate of a 28 percent decline from nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Gaming revenue has fallen 35.5 percent so far this year.

Wynn Macau Ltd. rose 3.2 percent to HK$11.06 as of 10:25 a.m. in Hong Kong trading. MGM China Holdings Ltd. rose 2.5 percent, Sands China Ltd. was up 1.1 percent, and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. advanced 1.7 percent. The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 0.8 percent.

Great Fanfare

Battered by China’s anti-corruption campaign and its slowing economic growth, Macau has seen gaming revenue tumble since mid-2014 as high-stakes players or VIP gamblers avoided the former Portuguese colony. Chinese visitor arrivals during the Oct. 1-7 National Day break, also known as Golden Week, rose 7.1 percent from a year earlier. Visitors from the mainland increased 17 percent during the same period last year.

Heeding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for Macau to rid its economy of an over-dependence on gambling, casino operators such as Sands China and MGM China are building new resorts with more non-gaming features to attract tourists. Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.’s Studio City opened its doors Oct. 27, featuring a Batman ride and a 130-meter (400-foot) high Ferris wheel.

Bernstein expects Macau’s average daily revenue from the mass market segment to begin rising on a marketing push by Studio City, after the casino resort “opened to great fanfare” last week, according to Umansky.

Gross gaming revenue over the National Day break was 914 million patacas a day, 65 percent higher than the daily takings in September, Deutsche Bank analyst Karen Tang wrote in a note on Oct. 12. Still, that was 28 percent lower when compared with the same period last year, according to Tang.

“Macau is not out of the woods yet, especially VIP gaming, as we expect Macau to experience three consecutive years of falling gross gaming revenue,” Nomura analysts led by Richard Huang wrote in an Oct. 27 note. Nomura forecasts gross gaming revenue to fall 35 percent this year and decline another 8 percent in 2016.

Macau’s VIP segment is being squeezed as the government tightens rules on junket operators, the middle-men who bring in VIPs from China and provide credit for them to gamble. The gaming regulator announced on Oct. 22 stricter accounting requirements for the operators.

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