Sands China Ltd is estimated currently to be market leader, by share of total wager, in Macau’s ‘premium mass’ gambling segment, according to a Sunday note from Citigroup Global Markets Inc.
“Sands China dethroned Galaxy [Entertainment Group Ltd] to become premium mass leader with an approximately 24-percent market share in total wager observed,” wrote analysts George Choi and Ryan Cheung.
The assessment was based on the February edition of an observation-based “table survey” by the banking group. Sands China had already gained first place in Citigroup’s January survey.
“The January and February surveys that we have conducted so far in 2023 suggest that Sands China… has cemented itself as a legitimate contented in the premium mass race, thanks to product offerings at the Londoner [Macao] and Plaza”, the brokerage stated.
The premium mass segment – involving cash play at high minimum bets – has been identified by a number of brokerages as a key area for Macau-operator competition under the new concessions, where currently there is a much lower volume of junket-driven VIP rolling chip play than previously.
In the February edition of its survey, Citigroup “saw only” 249 premium mass players market wide, with an average bet size of HKD17,992 per hand.
The bank chose to compare February this year – the month after the latest Chinese New Year – with March 2019, which was the immediate post lunar-new-year period in that pre-pandemic trading environment.
Citigroup said the 249 premium mass players it witnessed during its February 2023 observation represented about 40 percent of the number in its March 2019 survey. But the average bet size per hand in the latest period was 34 percent higher than in March 2019.
“This means total wager observed – at HKD4.5 million – was about 53 percent that of March 2019,” stated the analysts. “This implies that recovery in premium mass continues to outpace that of Macau’s overall [visitor arrival] recovery.”
They added: “We saw a total of eight whales”, i.e., very high-value players, with “bet size of HKD100,000 or more… this month, and the ‘player of the month’ placed a single bet of HKD220,000” at a non-main-floor gaming area at City of Dreams, a Cotai complex run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.
Londoner Macao room premium
The Citigroup team added in its note that players at Sands China’s the Londoner Macao resort (pictured) on Cotai, had bets that “averaged approximately HKD25,000 per hand.”
The analysts said their research indicated a “basic hotel room” at the Londoner Macao was priced at HKD9,300 per night, which they thought “implies that Sands is getting demand from so many premium mass players that it cannot afford ‘wasting’ any hotel room on non-players”.
Wynn Macau Ltd – which runs two properties in the market, Wynn Macau on the city’s peninsula, and Wynn Palace in the Cotai district – was seen by Citigroup as “most improved operator”, with a 22 percent share of premium mass wagers according to its February survey, versus only circa 16 percent in January.
Citigroup further observed that MGM China Holdings Ltd – which runs MGM Macau on the city’s peninsula, and MGM Cotai in the newer casino district – “might be experiencing some normalisation in premium mass market share this month”.
MGM China’s management had said on the parent MGM Resorts International’s fourth-quarter earnings call earlier this month that, in January this year, the Macau operation had – when judged across all gambling segments – a “record” market share.
Citigroup said in its Sunday memo that – based on its assessment – premium mass “volumes remain light“ at the properties under SJM Holdings Ltd.
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