Macau’s transit visa scheme “is set to undergo a significant positive shift at year end,” says a new note from Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, quoting “multiple local sources”.
According to Union Gaming’s note, “persons entering Macau (ostensibly) for the purposes of transiting to a third party country would be allowed to stay for up to 14 days (from 7) upon one’s first entry into Macau during any given month, and would then be allowed to stay up to 7 days (from 2) for a second entry during the same month,” wrote analyst Grant Govertsen.
“Keep in mind that it was just four months ago that the transit visa restrictions were unwound after being in place for exactly one year (5 days + 1 reverted back to 7+ 2),” he added.
Macau relaxed transit visa restrictions for mainland Chinese passport holders earlier this year. Since July 1, mainland Chinese who transit via Macau are allowed to stay for up to seven days, provided they have documented proof of onward travel to a third destination. The Macau government had tightened the rules in July last year, limiting such travellers to a five day stay.
The possibility of the transit visa restrictions being relaxed follows recent comments by Li Gang, director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Macau. Speaking to reporters on October 1, Mr Li said the central government would introduce more policies to support Macau and its gaming industry, without giving specifics.
“We had speculated that the most likely course of action would come in the form of relaxed visas,” said Mr Govertsen. The institution however expected changes to the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS), which allows mainland passport holders to visit Macau and Hong Kong as independent travellers rather than as part of a tour group.
“Regardless, should we receive official confirmation that the transit visas are being relaxed again … we would take this as further evidence that Macau’s darkest hour could be behind us as the government begins to take corrective actions,” said the Union Gaming analyst.
Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) growth turned negative in June 2014 and it has since retreated for 17 consecutive months when judged in year-on-year terms. Casino GGR for October fell 28.4 percent year-on-year to MOP20.06 billion (US$2.5 billion), according to official data.
Union Gaming said in its latest note that further relaxation of transit visa rules could benefit Macau’s high-end gaming market.
“We believe the greatest beneficiaries of a relaxed transit visa scheme are those persons who facilitate VIP gambling (junket agents) and to a lesser extent premium mass players themselves,” said Mr Govertsen.
Though the changes might have a “near-term impact”, “it is important to keep in mind that the relaxation of transit visas are unlikely to result in a sharp immediate increase in GGR,” he added.
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Analyst at Roth Capital Partners