Macau Anniversary Celebration Could Inhibit Casino Win, But 2020 Promising

Posted on: September 11, 2019, 09:17h. 

Last updated on: September 11, 2019, 12:37h.

The 20th Macau anniversary celebration this December to commemorate the enclave’s return to China could impede general tourism and subsequently hurt casino revenues.

Macau anniversary casino revenue
Macau’s Lotus Square will be the main stage for the enclave’s 20th anniversary in December. (Image: Flickr)

Comments this week from MGM China CEO Grant Bowie relayed by Asian gaming media outlet GGRAsia reveal the executive believes the festivities and the numerous activities planned around the region could tie up casino hotel rooms and therefore result in a reduction in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

“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,” Bowie opined.

December 20 marks the 20th anniversary of Portugal returning the Special Administrative Region (SAR) to the People’s Republic of China. Soon after the send-back, the enclave ended billionaire Stanley Ho’s gaming monopoly and brought in five new commercial operators, which ultimately created the world’s richest casino hub.

The highlight of the anniversary party will take place at 8:00 am local time, when the SAR government raises its flag in Golden Lotus Square. China President Xi Jinping is scheduled to be in attendance.

2020 Outlook

Along with discussing the upcoming anniversary and its potential impact on GGR in December, Bowie talked about his optimism for next year. Macau’s six licensed casino operators have won $24.5 billion January through August, but that’s a nearly two percent decline.

The ongoing trade war between the US and China, and the latter’s slowing economy, has presented difficulties for the enclave. Macau is officially in a recession following two consecutive quarters of gross domestic product declines, and that’s expected to run through the end of the year.

I’m still very positive regarding 2020,” Bowie explained. “I think when we get through all of these challenges and we have some clarity, and the business starts to improve, I think Macau gaming will continue to grow.”

“There’s a lot of global challenges going on and Macau is not separated from those challenges,” the MGM executive concluded.

New Macau

The importance of VIP play has been reduced in recent years, as the mainland government cracked down on junket groups that cater to the high roller segment. The mass market has largely offset those GGR losses, and casinos continue to diversify their amenities and attractions to a wider demographic.

Macau’s next chief executive, Ho Iat Seng – who will assume the position during the December 20 celebration – is expected to promote the “one country, two systems” arrangement between Macau and China.

Unlike his predecessors, Ho has no direct ties to the gaming industry, but has been a close ally of Beijing’s for many years. He’s expected to embrace steps that reduce the enclave’s dependency on casino taxes, which currently account for 90 percent of Macau’s budget.

The International Monetary Fund and Macau Liaison Office Director Fu Ziying are both encouraging the enclave government to offer incentives that entice the casino operators to invest in non-gaming projects.

One area being focused on is the nearby Hengqin Island. Three times larger than Macau in terms of land size and easily accessible via the six-lane Lotus Bridge, Hengqin could become the convention and meetings epicenter of the region.