Macau’s 2022 casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) might reach approximately “60 percent” of the pre-Covid 19 level seen in 2019, if the city succeeds in easing travel arrangements with Hong Kong, and sees further improvements in movement between mainland China and Macau, suggested Benjamin Toh Hup Hock, chief financial officer (CFO) at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd.
Macau’s 2019 GGR tally was just under MOP292.46 billion (US$36.5 billion), so by Mr Toh’s forecast, 2022 GGR might reach circa MOP175.47 billion if the market is helped by the return in numbers, of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese consumers.
Recently the Macau government cautiously forecast 2022 casino GGR at MOP130 billion, though it was not clear whether the authorities were explicitly excluding from their calculations the possibility of Hong Kong consumers rejoining the market during that year. A number of investment analysts has said such customers accounted for at least 15 percent of Macau’s annual GGR in pre-pandemic times.
SJM Holdings Mr Toh was speaking on Wednesday as part of a panel during the 2021 MGS Summit, an online conference about the casino industry.
It would be “very difficult” for Macau tourism to see a return of international customers in 2022, given the current percentage of people in the city that are vaccinated against Covid-19, Mr Toh told the panel. He noted that by contrast Singapore, another Asian casino jurisdiction, had a higher vaccination rate.
Macau’s Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng had said on Tuesday that the city’s overall Covid-19 vaccination rate – i.e., people who had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine – stood at “70 percent” as of that day.
It has been widely reported that at least two doses of vaccine are required per person, to produce the antibodies needed to tackle Covid-19. As of November 11, about 55.8 percent of Macau’s population of circa 682,300 had received two jabs.
80pct jab rate before travel can ease
Macau’s leader has said getting to 80 percent of inhabitants having received two jabs would be a basis for talks on travel easing. A concern was that the elderly had a lower take-up rate for the vaccine than younger groups.
Mr Toh told Wednesday’s panel: “If you look at Macau’s vaccination rate – and especially that amongst the elderly which is still low – I think to have international tourists back here next year…is very difficult as that could have overwhelmed Macau’s medical capacity.”
The SJM Holdings executive added that Macau could, at best, look forward to achieving the normalising of travel ties on a regional level in 2022.
“By March next year, it is possible that Hong Kong… reopens with us [Macau], according to what have been analysed by us and also by some [industry] analysts,” Mr Toh said.
He added: “If the [mainland China processing of] travel permits for Hong Kong and Macau is resumed in the third quarter [of 2022], plus the [Macau-bound] package tours can also resume at the same time, the gaming revenue [of Macau] can recover to around 60 percent of 2019 level.”
Kenneth Feng Xiaofeng, president and CFO of Macau operator MGM China Holdings Ltd, told the Wednesday panel that Covid-19 vaccination is “core” to Macau’s recovery in gaming and tourism trade.
The resuming of travel ties with Hong Kong is “very important” for Macau, the MGM China executive said. “If Hong Kong visitors can come here, this, will, already serve as publicity [for Macau],” Mr Feng remarked. He added that travel normalisation with Hong Kong would help raise Macau’s attractiveness as a travel destination for mainland Chinese consumers.
“For mainland Chinese, Hong Kong is still linked with Macau,” explained Mr Feng, referring to mainland Chinese visitors’ past liking for visiting the two Special Administrative Regions in a single holiday.
Other panellists in the Wednesday session were: Jason Ni, assistant vice president of research, planning and strategy of Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace, the properties of Wynn Macau Ltd; Buddy Lam Chi Seng, senior vice president of public relations at Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd; Raymond Lo, senior vice president, property general manager of Altira Macau and Mocha Clubs at Melco Resorts and Entertainment; and Sam Chongnin, vice president of corporate communications and community affairs at Venetian Macau Ltd, a subsidiary of Sands China Ltd.
The moderator of the session – which was conducted in Chinese – was Davis Fong Ka Chio, a former Macau legislator and director of Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming, at the University of Macau.
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