Casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau’s VIP segment expanded by 12.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to data released on Monday by the local regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
VIP baccarat GGR in the three months to December 31 was approximately MOP33.33 billion (US$4.17 billion) compared to MOP29.59 billion in the prior-year period.
For full-year 2016, VIP baccarat GGR was approximately MOP118.96 billion, down 6.9 percent year-on-year from about MOP127.82 billion in 2015.
The market aggregate for all casino GGR in the fourth quarter 2016 had been reported on January 1 by the gaming bureau as standing at MOP60.42 billion, a year-on-year increase of 10.2 percent. That represented the best quarterly performance the Macau market has seen since the opening three months of 2014. In that quarter, casino GGR had expanded by 19.7 percent year-on-year, according to official data.
Data compiled by Macau’s casino regulator show that the last time quarterly VIP baccarat GGR had increased in year-on-year terms was in the first quarter of 2014.
In the breakdown of fourth-quarter 2016, VIP baccarat revenue as a proportion of all casino GGR in the period stood at 55.2 percent.
The mass-market segment saw its second consecutive quarter of expansion in the October to December period. Mass-market gambling, including play from slot machines, rose by 7.4 percent year-on-year in the three months to December 31, to MOP27.09 billion.
Mass-market GGR for the full year was MOP104.25 billion, up 1.2 percent compared to MOP103.02 billion in 2015.
According to the data released on Monday, GGR from slot machines was approximately MOP3.06 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, up 3.8 percent from the prior-year period. For full-year 2016, slot revenue was approximately MOP11.38 billion, 3.1 percent down on the 2015 aggregate of MOP11.75 billion.
Revenue from live multi game products – those featuring table-style games with live dealers but electronic betting and electronic bet settlement – was MOP630 million for the fourth quarter 2016, an increase of 14.3 percent from a year earlier. Such revenue for calendar year 2016 was approximately MOP2.35 billion, compared to MOP2.12 billion in 2015, an increase of 10.8 percent year-on-year.
There was consecutive year-on-year positive growth in Macau monthly GGR in the final five months of 2016, confirmed the data for December and full-year 2016 released by the city’s regulator on January 1.
Several investment analysts have now ventured to call the five-month rally in GGR a trend. Debate has continued in the investment community regarding how sustainable the rally is, against the background of possible tightening of governmental oversight regarding cross-boundary money flows from mainland China.
Investment research firm Morningstar Inc stated in a Friday note that it was revising its Macau GGR growth forecast to 6 percent – from 3 percent – for full-year 2017. That was based on its own industry checks “that point to improvement in both VIP and mass play”.
“For VIP play, we forecast VIP revenue growth to trend up 2 percent in 2017 (versus negative 3 percent previously) based on several signs of near-term improvement,” said Morningstar analyst Chelsey Tam.
She added: “Our 2017 mass gaming revenue has been lifted by 200 basis points to 9 percent growth because of 1) increased frequency of visits by premium mass customers, 2) an improving mix in visitors … and 3) stronger-than-expected recovery in the fourth quarter of 2016.”
Ms Tam additionally said that several areas of policy risk – including control of capital outflow from China; the potential for a smoking ban in VIP rooms; and casino licence renewals on more stringent terms than the original permits – could temper market recovery.
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"After a challenging period, the Macau market is growing again, and its growth rate has been accelerating for three consecutive quarters. Our Macau operation is experiencing strong growth in both our mass gaming and non-gaming segments"
Chairman of gaming operator Las Vegas Sands and subsidiary Sands China