Macau Casinos Post Lowest Gross Gaming Revenue Win in 12 Months, Headwinds Remain in Final Quarter

Posted on: October 1, 2019, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: October 1, 2019, 10:03h.

Macau casinos recorded their lowest monthly haul in a year, as September gross gaming revenue (GGR) came in at just MOP22.1 billion ($2.7 billion), a small 0.6 percent year-over-year bump.

Macau casinos GGR gaming revenue
The opulent Macau casinos on the Cotai Strip aren’t welcoming as many high rollers as they once did. (Image: Macau News)

September should have been an easy comparable, as the month in 2018 was hampered by Typhoon Mangkhut. The tropical cyclone forced casinos to close for 33 hours – the first in the gambling mecca’s history.

Despite more than a day short of GGR in 2018, casinos faced new challenges last month. A weakening Chinese economy, the ongoing US and China trade war, and social unrest in nearby Hong Kong all slowed casino activity.

However, September essentially fell in line with the median gaming industry expectations, which predicted one percent growth.

Difficulties Ahead

To put September 2019 into perspective, the last time Macau casinos saw GGR dip below MOP22 billion came a year ago this month. September 2018 was the region’s worst gaming win month since September 2017, when the floors kept MOP 21.36 billion.

Through three quarters of 2019, Macau casino win stands at $27.34 billion – a 1.7 percent decrease. Five of the nine recorded months saw GGR reduced compared to the same months in 2018. The biggest loser came in August, when win dropped 8.6 percent.

It’s expected to only get worse before it gets better.

October kicks off with the annual Golden Week holiday, but analysts aren’t optimistic for the week-long celebration. Reduced VIP traffic has led to casinos handing out more comps and incentives to customers in the mass market segment.

“Room comps will be high … but likely go to an average lower-spend customer than in 2018,” analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein explained.

Those same analysts said VIP revenue declined 12-14 percent last month, while mass play increased 11-13 percent. Looking ahead, Bernstein is forecasting GGR to decline three to six percent in October.

With Golden Week leading off the month, the trend so far is not looking too optimistic, based on our recent conversations with industry participants in Macau,” the firm stated.

The Macau Tourism Office is expecting visitor arrivals to increase 15 percent on 2018’s Golden Week total of 890,000. The surge comes not from the high roller, but the VIP. Last October’s opening of the 34-mile Hong Kong to Macau bridge slashes automobile travel time between the two Special Administrative Regions from around four hours to just 35 minutes.

A room search for Wednesday through Sunday found no availability at The Venetian and Parisian, Morpheus, and Wynn Palace. Occupancies were available at City of Dreams, MGM Macau, and MGM Cotai.

Stock Reaction

Stocks of the six licensed casino operators – Sands, Wynn, MGM, Galaxy, SJM, and Melco – didn’t trade on Tuesday due to the Golden Week holiday closure of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

In the US, the four traded casino companies saw mixed results. Sands, MGM, and Melco were all relatively flat in morning trading. Wynn was up 1.3 percent as of noon.