A cross-departmental initiative by mainland China’s government to crack down on underground banks, offshore company accounts and other illegal means of transferring cash gained from corruption, could also have implications for Macau’s gaming industry, said a note on Friday from Credit Suisse AG in Hong Kong.
“While these measures do not specifically target Macau, we believe this may create additional difficulties for players (especially VIP and premium mass) to move the money and therefore drag the gaming revenue potentially,” said analysts Kenneth Fong and Isis Wong.
“This is because high-end players normally use junkets who in turn use underground banks to move money between [mainland] China and Macau. More control over the underground bank [system] is likely to increase the cost of money transfer,” added the Credit Suisse team.
Bloomberg News had reported on Thursday – quoting a statement from the country’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China – that mainland China’s latest reported anti-corruption initiative would involve the bank and four ministries including the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.
The new move is reportedly designed to complement the mainland government’s “Sky Net” campaign. The latter incorporates the colourfully named “Operation Fox Hunt” that aims to find and repatriate to mainland China allegedly corrupt officials that have fled abroad. Xinhua, an official news agency, has said it has so far led to the repatriation of 680 alleged fugitives suspected of economic crimes.
“On the ground, we hear that control over money movement has been tighter over the past few months,” said Credit Suisse, referring to the cross border transfer from and to mainland China of cash related to Macau casino gambling.
On a slightly more upbeat note, Daiwa Securities Group Inc said in a commentary on Thursday on Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd’s first quarter results, that management at the Macau casino operator had reported “signs of gradual stabilisation” in gamblers’ buy-in trends over the previous three to six weeks.
But Daiwa analysts Jamie Soo and Adrian Chan added: “Management remains cautious on its outlook for the medium term for the industry and for Galaxy Entertainment.”
UBS AG analysts Anthony Wong and Angus Chan said in a note on Thursday that they were reducing their estimates for Macau’s April gross gaming revenue to between MOP19.8 billion (US$2.48 billion) and MOP18.1 billion, implying a year-on-year decline of between 37 percent and 42 percent.
They added in a commentary on possible changes to the visa system whereby mainland travellers visit Macau: “We see policy outlook on visitation as quite murky. For [the] mainland to introduce a cap [on visitor numbers] could mean a quota on visas need[s] to be implemented in a nationally coordinated way, which is not easy in our view.”
Matthew Ryan of JP Morgan Securities Australia Ltd, said in a note on Tuesday the institution was now expecting up to a 38 percent decline during 2015 in equity accounted contributions from Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd to Australian operator Crown Resorts Ltd, due to “ongoing weakness” in Macau’s monthly GGR data. As of October 2014, Crown’s interest in Melco Crown was approximately 33.8 percent, according to its corporate website.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China