Macau casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) declined 8.9 percent sequentially in February, to MOP7.31 billion (US$914 million), compared to just above MOP8.02 billion in January, according to data issued on Monday by the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, a body also known as DICJ.
February GGR was up 135.6 percent from a year earlier. All Macau casinos had at least a 15-day pause in February 2020, as a Covid-19 countermeasure.
The February 2021 result encompassed Chinese New Year, which occurred on February 12 this time, and had an associated seven-day holiday in mainland China.
Prior to the holiday period, authorities in mainland China had called on citizens not to leave their home area during the festivities, as a precaution against the risk of spreading Covid-19, following a number of infection clusters there.
As a result, tourism volume to Macau during Chinese New Year from the mainland – the only place currently to have a largely travel-free bubble with Macau – was not as high as casino investors had hoped.
In a Monday note, brokerage JP Morgan said that Macau’s February GGR “was [a] bit underwhelming, but doesn’t really move needle.”
Analysts DS Kim and Derek Choi added: “Overall, we view this GGR print as having little implication on forward estimates given well-followed mid-month GGR and severe volatility around Chinese New Year holidays.”
The JP Morgan analysts said they expected “mass momentum to accelerate from here as cross-provincial travel restrictions are seemingly being removed during/post-Chinese New Year holidays.”
In a separte note also issued on Monday, Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd noted that “China had been instituting larger scale lockdowns and urging reduction in travel in January and early February, but this began to ease in latter part of the month”.
Analysts Vitaly Umansky and Tianjiao Yu added: “We expect to see gradually improving travel and GGR figures during the spring. Looking forward we expect to see Hong Kong reopen for Macau travel in the second quarter and for some China visa loosening in the summer.”
On February 23, the Macau authorities had announced that no city in mainland China was any longer considered by the Macau authorities to be ‘medium risk’ for transmission of Covid-19 infection.
As a result, no mainland China visitor to Macau would as of that date be automatically required to complete quarantine upon arrival in the city, based specifically on whether the arriving visitor had been to any ‘medium risk’ place on the mainland in the 14 days prior to coming to Macau.
(Updated at 4.00pm, Mar 1)
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"The Macau recovery continues to be disrupted by false starts, while the lack of [Chinese] public holidays for rest of the year should cap the pace of the rebound”
Andrew Lee and David Katz
Analysts at brokerage Jefferies LLC