Macau Gaming Analysts Like What They See, Predict ‘Sustainable’ Growth

Posted on: April 17, 2018, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: April 17, 2018, 01:56h.

Following a trip to Macau, gaming analysts at JP Morgan Securities say China’s enclave is well positioned to see continued growth throughout 2018.

Macau MGM Cotai Strip
MGM Cotai was late to the game on Macau’s Strip, but market analysts say 2018 should be a prosperous year for casino resorts throughout the enclave. (Image: Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

The financial services firm says the mass market continues to expand, and VIP play is strong.

“All seems well and virtually everyone is feeling positive, across segments and across operators,” JP Morgan Hong Kong-based analysts DS Kim and Sean Zhuang wrote in a note this week. GGRAsia, an online gaming news outlet focused on Asian markets, first reported the market research news.

“Mass demand is growing to record highs; VIP stays strong, with ample-as-ever junket liquidity. The pace that this recovery is occurring without any discernible rise in promotion suggests it’s a genuine demand recovery, not artificially pulled forward,” the note detailed.

In conclusion, the analysts opined that the market has the “telltale signs of sustainable upcycle.”

Market Rebound

Macau, the richest gaming hub in the world, experienced three consecutive years of gross gaming revenue (GGR) declines between 2014 and 2016. The downturn came as a result of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inclusion of junket companies transporting mainlanders into his anti-corruption scheme.

Dozens of VIP junket groups closed shop, and with it, billions of dollars in high roller play was lost. Macau casinos responded by becoming less reliant on the ultra-wealthy and instead diversified and focused on the mass market.

It worked, as total visitor arrivals increased 5.5 percent to 32.6 million in 2017. And perhaps even more importantly, visitor arrivals from the mainland jumped 8.5 percent.

Xi’s corruption campaign against junkets has since eased. That’s allowed the VIP segment to return and stabilize, and in conjunction with the mass market increase, gaming revenues are regaining pace.

Macau casinos generated GGR win of $33.2 billion in 2017, a 19.1 percent premium on 2016. A quarter of the way into 2018, the current year has extended the Macau rebound.

Gross gaming revenue is up 20.5 percent January through March. The JP Morgan analysts are predicting 18 percent year-on-year growth in April, which will extend the enclave’s winning streak to 21 months.

Increased Infrastructure

The enclave should receive a boost in arrivals via automobile when the long-awaited bridge connecting Macau with Hong Kong and Zhuhai opens this summer. The longest sea bridge in the world at roughly 34 miles, the more than $15 billion Pearl River Estuary water crossing will reduce the auto travel time from Hong Kong to Macau from about four hours to just 45 minutes.

Though some have voiced concerns over the bridge’s structural integrity after barriers supporting artificially made islands appeared to be breaking off, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters earlier this month that “the stability of construction … is a scientifically proven thing.” However, she did not provide examples of such proof.

Traveling to the Cotai Strip, the area that’s become the main drag in Macau, also recently became easier. Last May’s Pac On Ferry Terminal opening and its 18 berths can now efficiently process up to 400,000 incoming and departing passengers per day.