Macau Gaming Industry Feeling Pressure From Casino Markets Throughout Asia

Posted on: May 6, 2019, 02:05h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2019, 02:07h.

The Macau gaming industry – the richest casino hub on the planet – could be feeling the pinch of expanded and new gambling markets in Asian countries.

Macau gaming casino Cotai Strip
Is the Macau gaming industry being threatened by new casino markets? (Image: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) in the Chinese enclave totaled $2.92 billion last month. That represented an 8.3 percent year-over-year win decline.

Macau casinos won $37.85 billion in 2018, nearly 14 percent more than they did in 2017. However, that rate pales in comparison to other Asian gaming markets.

Gaming analysts at Fitch Ratings say GGR in Singapore, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia grew 41 percent last year, far outpacing Macau. And each market is going after the Chinese mainland high roller.

Macau has enjoyed being the beneficiary of China’s VIP segment for more than a decade. But People’s Republic President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on junket groups that cater to China’s wealthiest citizens has prompted some to search for new gaming destinations.

The Wall Street Journal reports that casinos in the Philippines welcomed two times the number of Chinese visitors last year compared to 2015. Visitor numbers from China are also up in Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and Nepal.

Macau Strategy

Las Vegas Sands executives recently talked about mounting pressure from Asian gaming markets as it relates to Macau. The casino company that made the first multibillion-dollar investment on what’s become the glitzy Cotai Strip said its casinos in Macau are feeling a pinch from other gaming countries.

“The proliferation of gaming venues, especially in Southeast Asia, could have a significant and adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows,” Sands said in its 2018 report.

Rob Goldstein, who ran Sands’ first quarter conference call with investors last month in billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s absence, said the company plans to invest in non-gaming MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions) facilities in Macau.

With the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the ongoing development of the Greater Bay initiatives, we believe Macau has the potential to become the MICE capital of Asia,” Goldstein explained.

Macau casinos have pivoted away from the high rollers in wake of Xi’s suppression of junket groups. Today, the mass market makes up more than half of the enclave’s total GGR.

Asian Expansion

Increased competition in Asia, and ongoing trade talks between the US and China, jeopardize the future of the Macau gaming industry. As such, some operators are interested in expanding into new markets.

Last month, Macau operator Wynn Resorts was nearing a $7.1 billion offer for Australian casino empire Crown Resorts. The potential buyer walked away, however, after Crown leaked the news to the press in what was viewed by Wynn executives as a way to ignite a bidding war.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a moratorium on new casino licenses, and no new concessions are being granted in Australia. The only way to currently enter those markets is by acquisition.

Japan will further congest the market for Asian high rollers. The country is authorizing three commercial integrated casino resorts, and the forthcoming industry has the attention of all the world’s major gaming operators. Union Gaming analysts predict the winners of the Japanese casinos will invest around $22.5 billion in the three properties by 2025.