Macau GGR Terrible in February, Not Much Better Next Month

Macau casinos reopened last week after being shuttered for 15 days because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. But analysts are forecasting epic declines in gross gaming revenue (GGR) for February and March.

Macau casinos are open again, but analysts expect major GGR declines in February and March. (Image: Macau News)

Although gaming properties are open for the Special Administrative Region (SAR), strict travel controls remain in place, meaning it could be weeks or months before it’s back to business as usual for the world’s largest casino center. As such, analysts continue offering up dismal GGR forecasts for February and now March.

We estimate February to be down 90% and March potentially to be down 80% (assuming no significant improvement in travel),” said Bernstein in a recent note to clients. “The operators we have spoken with do not see any clarity on timing of recovery at this time.”

The research firm is forecasting February GGR on Macau of just $261.58 million, down from $3.16 billion a year earlier, based on an average daily rate of $31.76 million to $32.38 million.

Some of the SAR’s casinos remain closed, and when those that reopened did so last week, they were subject to stringent controls, including only being able to offer half the usual number of table games, permitting just four gamblers at each table, and a requirement that there must be a space in between each player at slot machines.

Not Much Clarity

With travel to Macau still heavily restricted and Beijing not yet relenting on controls on the individual visit scheme (IVS) – the primary visa source for mainland Chinese gamblers looking to enter the gaming hub – analysts don’t see GGR declines abating over the near-term.

“IVS and group visas into Macau are suspended, and most transport is severely disrupted, with most airlines cancelling or limiting flights into Macau and surrounding airports,” according to Bernstein.

The COVID-19 epidemic comes at a time when Macau concessionaires are trying to bolster non-gaming turnover, dealing a blow to that effort. Gaming accounts for about 90 percent of revenue at the integrated resorts there because food and rooms are often comped to premium mass and VIP junket players.

Since casinos reopened last week, more VIPs than mass market players have returned, potentially providing a lift to Wynn Resorts. Among others, that operator is dependent on the high end of the Macau market, and was losing as much as $2.6 million per day during the closure.

Just Guessing

Entering this year, the consensus view for Macau operators was that the first half would be slow before a rebounded materialized in the back half. But that outlook did not account for the novel coronavirus.

Because of the outbreak, analysts now believe it’s difficult – at best – to project how GGR on the peninsula will look for the first half of 2020, and that estimates to that effect amount to no more than guesses.

“Forecasts for the near term (i.e. 1H20) are largely guesses at this time, with the biggest variables now being when travel restrictions from China will be lifted,” said Bernstein.

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