The tally of Macau gamblers was “down” in a casino floor-based January survey of the city’s premium mass and mass table games segments, but “average bet size was much higher” than in a February 2019 survey, says a research paper from Citigroup Global Markets Inc.
The latest survey observed some “jaw-dropping” wagers, said the authors, including one player placing HKD725,000 (nearly US$92,500) on a single baccarat bet in a premium mass area at MGM Macau, run by MGM China Holdings Ltd, on the city’s peninsula.
The January review was on the 27th of the month, the final day of mainland China’s seven-day holiday to mark the latest Chinese New Year (CNY).
Macau’s January casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) grew 232.6 percent month-on-month, coinciding with the ending of mainland China and Macau’s respective ‘zero-Covid’ policies at the start of the month that saw a boom in tourism numbers, and the mainland’s Chinese New Year break.
Macau recorded 451,047 visitor arrivals during the seven days of the Chinese New Year break, up 297.0 percent year-on-year, according to official data. The result was about 37 percent of the tally in the comparable pre-pandemic trading period of Chinese New Year 2019.
According to the Citigroup survey results, in a premium area at Wynn Palace, a Cotai resort run by Wynn Macau Ltd, one player was seen with “an approximately HKD6-million chip stack in front of him, and he was betting HKD300,000 a hand,” wrote analysts George Choi and Ryan Cheung.
They also noted that 490 players were seen playing at various casino floors the research categorised as premium mass. That was about “53 percent” of the tally observed in its February 2019 survey, the latter timed to cover Chinese New Year in that trading cycle.
The analysts suggested the “quality” of the players in the January 2023 survey was “very high”. The average wager per premium-mass player among those seen, stood at HKD24,178 which was “45 percent higher than that of Chinese New Year 2019,” they stated.
The 2023 survey “concludes that recovery in premium mass is much greater than” recovery of overall Chinese New Year visitor numbers.
This was “echoing comments from Sands’ management on its earnings call,” said the Citigroup analysts. They were referring to Las Vegas Sands Corp, the parent of Macau operator Sands China Ltd, which last week reported the group’s fourth-quarter results, and gave some colour on gambling trends for the lunar new year break.
Citigroup said it surveyed 21 publicly-accessible premium mass areas, with the newest on the list being at respectively, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd’s Galaxy Macau; Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd’s City of Dreams; and Sands China’s the Plaza Macao.
Citigroup’s latest mass-market minimum bet survey also showed “encouraging trends,” suggested the analysts.
“Average mass baccarat minimum bets across Macau were approximately HKD2,235… up 2 percent versus Chinese New Year 2019, and… about 1 percent shy of the all-time high of HKD2,266 that we got from our October 2018 survey,” stated Citigroup.
The banking group observed mass betting at “15 major casinos” in Macau, including SJM Holdings Ltd’s Grand Lisboa Palace on Cotai, which opened in July 2021.
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