Macau’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 4.7 percent year-on-year in real terms for the whole of 2019, said on Friday the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
For the fourth quarter that indicator declined by 8.1 percent year-on-year. For the whole of 2019, Macau’s aggregate real GDP was MOP434.7 billion (US$54.2 billion), and on a per-capita basis was MOP645,438, said the statistics bureau.
Factors nonetheless holding back 2019 GDP performance included the fact exports of gaming services fell by 9.8 percent year-on-year, “dragged by a decrease in VIP gaming business,” noted the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
In 2019, Macau-market gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated by VIP play, was down 18.6 percent year-on-year, according to information published in mid-January this year by the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Such decline was offset by a 15.0-percent increase in mass-market revenue, meaning that Macau’s accumulated casino GGR for full-year 2019 declined only by 3.4 percent year-on-year.
Macau’s GDP performance trends in recent years have broadly coincided with casino GGR trends in the city, highlighting the importance of the gaming sector to the local economy. In 2018, Macau’s real GDP had expanded by 5.4 percent, when the city’s casino GGR rose by 14.0 percent in year-on-year terms.
For the 2019 GDP numbers, the statistics bureau said exports of tourism services other than gaming “dropped by 7.0 percent year-on-year owing to a decline in visitor arrivals and visitors’ per-capita spending under external influences”.
The bureau noted that Macau’s GDP had been in “negative growth since the first quarter of 2019, owing to decreases in investment and exports of services”.
In October the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had forecast Macau’s GDP would fall by 1.3 percent in 2019 and by 1.1 percent in 2020.
But since then the drag factor linked to China’s slowing economic growth during 2019 has been compounded by the downturn of the city’s tourism market amid the coronavirus alert in place locally since just before Chinese New Year.
On Sunday the Macau government announced Macau casino GGR shrank by 87.8 percent in February in year-on-year terms, negatively affected by factors including a 15-day shutdown ordered by the city’s government as part of the efforts to contain the spread locally of the Covid-19 disease linked with the newly-identified coronavirus.
Brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd said in a Sunday note that the February GGR result was “not meaningful” given disruption in the Macau inbound tourism market, particularly since early February. This included “lack of Macau visas” in terms of inbound trips from mainland China, “limited transport options, hours-long health check at the border, potential 14-day quarantine, [and] mandatory face masks” to be worn by customers on casino floors, as well as gaming staff.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés