Bet Against the House: Macau Casinos Are Now in Yearlong Rut

Updated on

It’s an anniversary in Macau that casino bosses aren’t in any mood to pop champagne over.

Casino revenue in the world’s largest gambling hub fell for the 12th straight month in May, as China’s battle against graft and a slowing economy kept high rollers and vacationing gamblers away.

Gross gaming revenue dropped 37.1 percent to 20.35 billion patacas ($2.55 billion), according to data released by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. That compares with the median estimate of a 38.5 percent decline from seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Macau casinos’ yearlong losing streak has left the city’s economy vulnerable as output tumbled 24.5 percent in the first quarter, worse than Greece and Ukraine ever did. Casino bosses are hoping a series of new casinos they’re opening will draw some customers back. Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. last week opened two new casino-hotels, Macau’s first in three years.

“We aren’t expecting further material downside from here,” after casino revenue had moved between 19 billion patacas and 21 billion patacas in past months, said Grant Govertsen, an analyst at Union Gaming Group in Macau. “However, we acknowledge that trends could still be choppy for some number of months to come before we see any breakout to the upside.”

Forecast Cut

Casino analysts have cut their forecasts for Macau’s gambling revenue several times this year as Chinese President Xi Jinping expands his fight against corruption and the country’s economic growth slows.

Gaming receipts are expected to widen their slump to 21 percent this year from a 2.6 percent drop in 2014, the city’s first-ever annual decline since records started in 2002. More than $24 billion in the market value of the city’s six operators has been wiped out so far this year.

In the first five months, casino revenue has also dropped 37 percent to 104.3 billion patacas.

Galaxy dropped 4.5 percent to close at HK$35.45 in Hong Kong trading. Sands China Ltd. and MGM China Holdings Ltd. fell more than 3.6 percent, while Wynn Macau Ltd. was down 2.3 percent and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. dropped 0.5 percent. SJM Holdings Ltd. gained 0.1 percent.

Macau’s economic output plunged 24.5 percent in the first quarter, following a 17.2 percent contraction in the previous quarter as gamblers stayed away and travelers cut spending. Sales of luxury goods also suffered with those of watches, clocks and jewelry down 31 percent and leather goods 28 percent.

The number of Macau visitors dropped 3.4 percent in April. Mainland Chinese, who make up two-thirds of the city’s total, fell for the second month in a row, a drop of 6.4 percent year on year.

New Openings

Galaxy’s casino openings last week marked the start of a new era during which each of the city’s six operators opening a property in the next two years, betting on non-gambling Las Vegas-style features to lure back customers.

Controlled by billionaire chairman Lui Che-Woo, Hong Kong-based Galaxy has live street performers alongside a hawker-style street market at a project that recreates New York’s Broadway theater district. It also added more luxury shops and fine dining at an expanded property.

Macau-based Govertsen said the company complex has been notably busier than recent history would suggest, and could lead to an uptick in revenue for Galaxy, though not necessarily for the market.

“We continue to believe that the new Galaxy supply will be more of a share taker than a market grower, although it will take many weeks or months to determine the exact dynamics,” he wrote.

Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., next to open a new resort later this year, will erect Asia’s tallest Ferris wheel. Sands China Ltd. follows with a property featuring a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower.

(Updates share prices in the fourth paragraph under the Forecast Cut subheadline.)
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