Posted on: December 1, 2023, 08:01h.
Last updated on: December 1, 2023, 08:01h.
Macau casino revenue cooled off a bit from the Chinese enclave’s post-pandemic high experienced in October.
Gross gaming revenue (GGR) from games of fortune — as the Macau government refers to its casino operations — totaled MOP16.04 billion (US$1.99 billion) in November 2023. Though that’s a 435% year-over-year improvement from November 2022 when China was still amid President Xi Jinping’s “zero-COVID” protocols, the monthly tally represents a nearly 18% decline from October when the six casino operators won $2.42 billion.
October benefited from hosting eight days of the Golden Week holiday, a peak travel period for China’s 1.4 billion residents. Many workers are given a week of paid time off during the holiday period that celebrates the Oct. 1, 1949, establishment of the People’s Republic.
November, however, still marked Macau’s fourth-best gaming month in 2023. This year marked the recovery start of what was the world’s richest gaming market before the COVID-19 pandemic. Macau has since lost that distinction to Nevada, but its gaming rebound nonetheless continues.
November’s GGR numbers came as little surprise, as analysts predicted the month would be considerably lower than October. The analysts’ consensus for the November casino win was MOP16 billion, just shy of being on point with the revenue realized.
November maintained the industry’s rally. Along with its 435% year-over-year surge, November was 138% richer than the same month in 2020 and 2021. But November’s haul remained 30% below pre-pandemic November 2019 when GGR totaled MOP22.87 billion.
Market observers say the mass market in Macau has fully recovered to 2019 conditions. The GGR shortcoming is because far fewer VIP players were in town after China in January successfully prosecuted Alvin Chau, the former face of Macau’s junket industry.
Chau became a billionaire founding and running his Suncity Group. The company began as a junket group that facilitated first-class travel for mainland whales to Macau. Upon arrival, those guests were afforded gaming credit in a similar amount to their lavish tour cost — often in the six- and seven-figure US dollar ranges. Those players gambled in private high roller rooms, with the casinos providing Suncity a commission on the action.
But Chinese prosecutors alleged Chau’s junket also ran illegal side games in the private rooms that swindled the Macau government out of more than $1 billion in tax revenue. Chau was arrested in late 2021 and in January 2023 was found guilty of fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association.
Chau’s prosecution and prison sentence rocked the junket industry in Macau, with most operators closing up shop and skipping town for more welcoming markets like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It’s unclear how Macau’s gaming industry can get back to 2019 gaming levels without junkets. The Macau government wants to diversify its economy away from gaming through new business capabilities and more family-friendly attractions.
Through 11 months, Macau’s gaming win stands at MOP164.5 billion (US$20.4 billion). Compared with the same period in 2019 when the casinos won MOP269.6 billion (US$33.5 billion), the 2023 revenue represents a 61% return.
A silver lining for the six gaming concession holders is that it appears they won’t hit the Macau government’s MOP180 billion (US$22.4 billion) GGR threshold that would require the companies to increase their nongaming spending by 20%. Macau issued the firms fresh 10-year licenses last year in exchange for a pledge that they collectively invest $13.5 billion into their resorts through nongaming projects during the life of the permits.
December historically has been a rather slow gaming month for Macau.