Casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau rose by 4.4 percent year-on-year in February, to MOP25.37 billion (US$3.14 billion), according to data from the city’s regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, released on Friday.
The latest monthly result puts the market’s accumulated 2019 year-on-year decline at 0.5 percent, or MOP50.31 billion. January casino GGR registered the first year-on-year monthly decline since 2016.
“On a combined basis, January/February 2019 was flat year-on-year,” wrote analysts Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu of brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. “The January/February 2018 period saw year-on-year growth of 20 percent setting up a difficult year-on-year comparison,” the noted in a Friday note.
February included the Chinese New Year holiday, which typically sees a spike in visitor numbers and in GGR.
Grant Govertsen, an analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, said in a Friday note: “The timing of Chinese New Year (CNY) should have, in theory, benefited this year. Based on our on-the-ground observations, and given robust foot traffic trends, it appears that mass market came through for operators and growth of this segment likely remains in the low double digits.”
Visitor arrivals to Macau during the Chinese New Year holiday period increased by 26.6 percent from a year earlier, passing the one-million mark for the first time.
Preliminary figures reported by the Macao Government Tourism Office show Macau recorded 1.21 million visitor arrivals between February 4 and February 10, the seven days of the Chinese New Year holiday period.
The week-long holiday period is usually a peak season for Macau’s gaming industry as hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists take advantage of the week-long break to visit the city.
Investment analysts however have noted in previous commentary on Macau that there need not be a direct correlation between numbers of tourists to Macau and gaming spend in casinos. This is because research indicates that high-stakes play by a relatively small number of visitors is still an important component of the market.
Union Gaming’s Mr Govertsen said in his Friday memo: “VIP likely dipped into negative territory on a market-wide basis, although certainly mixed at the operator level. On a GGR/day basis, February was MOP906 million … or the highest level since the fall of 2014.”
Top executives at Macau casino operators have provided some bullish commentary on performance during last month’s festive holiday period.
Grant Bowie, chief executive of MGM China Holdings Ltd, said on a conference call with analysts last month that the Chinese New Year holiday period had been “solid” for the company. Mr Bowie said however that despite the strong traffic during the holiday period, he did not expect “significant spikes” in GGR.
(Updated at 2.23pm, March 1)
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Analysts at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein