Macau casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) was in the red for a sixth month in 2019, as October’s haul came in at $3.28 billion – a 3.2 percent year-over-year decline.
October kicked off with the all-important annual Golden Week holiday, and while visitor arrival numbers were strong, it didn’t correlate to the gaming tables and slot machines. A total of 985,000 people traveled to the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) during the week-long celebration, which was an 11.5 percent jump.
However, the quality of the visitor was reduced, as fewer VIPs ventured to the enclave. As a result, the six licensed casino operators in the region saw their win come up $110 million short of October 2018.
We estimate VIP GGR fell about 20 percent year-on-year, while mass grew low-teens year-on-year, pretty much in line with third-quarter trends,” JPMorgan Asia Pacific gaming analysts DS Kim, Jeremy An, and Derek Choi said in a note.
Through 10 months, 2019 Macau casino win stands at $30.56 billion. That’s down 1.8 percent.
There are two main reasons as to why there are fewer high rollers in Macau these days.
First, the Chinese economy has slowed. The country’s 2018 GDP growth was 6.6 percent, its smallest in 28 years. This year has been even worse, with GDP growth at six percent in the third quarter of 2019. As a result, the yuan is weakening.
The ongoing trade war between the US and China is also keeping VIP gamblers away from Macau, as they tighten their spending.
“We continue to experience peaks and valleys in Macau,” Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox explained. “Where the trade wars end up is uncertain. We can’t control the certitudes of the market.”
As a result, some casinos have shifted their attention to the mass market. But those people do not gamble nearly as much as the mainland’s wealthier citizens – made evident by the Golden Week’s strong visitor numbers, but disappointing casino win.
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are expected to soon sign the first phase of their interim trade deal. That could help both economies and deliver some sort of calm.
But for 2019, gaming analysts aren’t optimistic the final two months will improve the year’s end result.
We continue to voice caution about the volatility surrounding VIP,” said Sanford Bernstein analysts Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee, and Kelsey Zhu. The firm is forecasting November GGR to come in at -3 to -6 percent, while Bloomberg has it at -5 percent.
December 20 marks the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return from Portugal to China. Xi is expected to be on hand to celebrate, but the festivities aren’t expected to aid the casino business.
“There are a lot of activities going on, but at the same time, some of the official engagements might mean that some of the visitation may actually go down because of such an important time in Macau’s history,” MGM China President Grant Bowie said in September.
However, Bowie said he’s bullish on 2020. During MGM Resorts’ Q3 conference call this week, CEO Jim Murren outlined the company’s plan to grow its mass market business in Macau.