The Macau government has authorised casino operator Sands China Ltd to operate a total of 100 new-to-market live dealer gaming tables on opening its US$2.7-billion Parisian Macao property in Cotai.
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, made the announcement on Saturday, in comments to reporters.
The new tables are only for the mass-market segment, Mr Leong added, as quoted in a government press release.
The government official also said that Sands China would be granted an additional 50 new-to-market tables in two separate phases: 25 tables on January 1, 2017; and the remaining 25 on January 1, 2018.
The Parisian Macao (pictured) – to open on September 13 – was additionally authorised to install 1,600 new slot machines on its casino floor, according to the government’s press release.
Sands China had previously stated the Parisian had capacity for up to 450 gaming tables.
Rival operator Wynn Macau Ltd was also given a total of 150 new-to-market tables – to be allocated in three stages – when it opened the US$4.2-billion Wynn Palace casino resort on August 22. The company had said in earlier announcements that the development had space for 500 tables.
Wynn Palace eventually opened with approximately 350 gaming tables: the firm transferred about 250 tables from its other Macau property on the peninsula to the Cotai casino resort.
Several investment analysts covering the gaming sector have previously signalled it is also likely that Sands China will move gaming tables – including VIP tables – from some of its other four Macau properties to the Parisian Macao. The firm plans to offer high stakes gaming at the new casino resort. Suncity Group – described by investment analysts as one of the ‘big three’ in the Macau VIP market – has confirmed to GGRAsia that it would run VIP facilities at the Parisian Macao. Junket operator Guangdong Group – also described by some analysts as a part of one of the ‘big three’ – is also launching VIP gaming rooms at the Parisian Macao, according to media reports.
Trying to understand table allocation logic
Mr Leong told reporters on Saturday that the decision to allocate new-to-market tables in phases for the two most recently completed Cotai resorts was made in order to prevent a sharp short-term increase in the overall number of gaming tables in Macau.
The official stated that the allocation of the new tables had also to comply with Macau’s table cap system. The government policy, effective since 2013, is designed to limit compound annual growth in the number of new live gaming tables to 3 percent over a 10-year period, until December 2022.
The number of tables granted to the Parisian Macao and Wynn Palace is considerably lower than the 250 gaming tables allocated to, respectively, Galaxy Macau Phase 2, developed by Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd; and to Studio City, majority owned by Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. Galaxy Macau Phase 2 and Studio City opened respectively in May and October 2015.
Analyst Grant Govertsen of brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a Saturday note – following Mr Leong’s comments – that his institution had expected the Parisian Macao also to receive 250 tables.
Mr Govertsen wrote: “Following the allocation of 150 tables to Wynn Palace, the government explained that the properties that opened in 2015 [each] got 250 tables because they had a greater focus on family entertainment and non-gaming offerings, and [made] a nod to the local community with on-property support for SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises). Based on these criteria, and what we knew about Parisian, we had assumed that Parisian was likely to check all of these boxes (although the level of SME support at Parisian is an unknown, it clearly brings lots of non-gaming and family-style attractions).”
The Parisian Macao will have 3,000 hotel rooms and suites, a casino, meeting space, retail and a themed water park, according to Sands China. The property’s half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower features a restaurant and observation decks.
Shortly after opening, Parisian Macao will host a Michael Jackson-inspired show-in-residence – for a limited period – at its 1,200-seat theatre.
Union Gaming’s Mr Govertsen noted however that a table allocation “greater than zero is a positive for Sands China”.
He added: “Given the current state of market-wide demand and the fact that [the] Parisian gets 150 tables, [the] Parisian won’t miss a beat given the company’s ability to harvest unutilised/underutilised tables from its other properties.”
In his Saturday comments, Secretary Leong also said the government was pleased to see that overall casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau had gone up – in year-on-year terms – in August, ending 26 months of contraction. But he noted that there was still uncertainty hanging over the sector and that one month’s performance did not necessarily mean the decline was over.
Macau’s GGR rose 1.1 percent year-on-year in August, to approximately MOP18.84 billion (US$2.36 billion). The information was given on September 1 by the city’s regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, also known as DICJ.
Mr Leong said that – based on historical trends – GGR in September was usually lower than in August. He added that the government would continue to monitor closely the performance of the casino sector, in order to have a better understanding of the factors affecting the industry.
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"VIP growth [in Macau] is roaring back on the heels of last year’s economic stimulus – but we think this could stall once the effect of the stimulus and the Chinese housing bubble wears off – as it did in 2013-14"
Cameron McKnight and Robert Shore
Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities