Analysts Confirm Macau Visa Control Policy Crimping December Visits to Gambling Hub

Posted on: December 10, 2019, 07:33h. 

Last updated on: December 10, 2019, 08:07h.

Implementation of visa restrictions is limiting gamblers’ visits to Macau this month, and that’s crimping monthly gross gaming revenue (GGR), say some analysts.

A clampdown by China on Macau visas is hurting gaming revenue in the casino hub. (Image: WVXU)

In a report out Monday, Bernstein’s team of gaming analysts note the tighter visitation policy, revealed as part of preparations for celebrations later this month commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the handover of Macau to China from Portugal, are hampering revenue there.

Through the first eight days of this month, GGR on the peninsula was an estimated $707 million, or an average of $88.4 million per day, according to Bernstein. That’s a 16 percent tumble from the year earlier period, and a six percent decline from November, which was the worst month of the year in terms of gaming turnover in Macau.

While VIP hold rate is around the normal range, this hold is lower than last December,” note the Bernstein analysts.

Revenue among high-end gamblers visiting the Special Administrative Region (SAR) has been slack for several months, a scenario exacerbated by the visa controls because more affluent players, particularly those from mainland China, make more frequent visits to the peninsula than do their mass market counterparts.

More Rough Forecasts

The celebration marking the transfer of Macau to Chinese control from being a colony of Portugal doesn’t commence until later this month. But policymakers in Beijing deployed the visa restrictions on Nov. 22, earlier than was expected. That decision is prompting some research firms to trim monthly and quarterly GGR estimates for the Chinese territory.

Visa limitations/restrictions on IVS and transit visas are impacting higher-frequency, higher-end players in both VIP and mass along with junket agents, which has led to significant declines in high-end visitation and GGR,” according to Bernstein.

Last month, the research firm lowered earnings and revenue estimates for the six Macau concessionaires, citing lethargy in the high-end segment.

Due to the limitations on visits to the peninsula, Bernstein is now forecasting a December GGR decline of 12 percent to 16 percent, far worse than its original estimate calling for a decline of eight percent to 11 percent.

Reasons For The Restrictions

China is clamping down on Macau tourism this month for a simple reason: an array of high-ranking dignitaries are expected to attend the handover ceremonies later this month. Speculation is running high that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be among those attending the festivities.

For Macau gaming equities, the timing of Bernstein’s downward revisions is inauspicious because it comes just days after J.P. Morgan analyst Joseph Greff noted there’s value in names such as Melco Resorts (NASDAQ:MLCO) and Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ:WYNN).

Additionally, as reported Monday, Wynn released solid October earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and revenue guidance for its two Macau properties, Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace.

The company said preliminary Macau results for November and to this point in December are not available.