IMF Analysts: Macau Gaming Regulators Should Force Casinos to Reduce VIP Reliance During Renewal Period

Posted on: February 28, 2019, 06:43h. 

Last updated on: March 6, 2019, 11:00h.

Macau gaming regulators could require the enclave’s licensed casino operators to reduce their reliance on high roller VIPs during the upcoming permit renewal period.

Macau gaming casino IMF review
The International Monetary Fund wants Macau gaming regulators and Chief Executive Fernando Chui to grow mass market tourism. (Image: South China Morning Post)

Analysts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conclude in their annual economic review of the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) that the government would be smart to issue incentives for casinos to grow mass market tourism.

Macau’s six licensed gaming operators – Sands, MGM, Wynn, Melco, SJM Holdings, and Galaxy Entertainment – will all see their permits expire over the next three years. IMF analysts say the world’s richest gambling hub should debut regulations during that period that give preference to the general public over high rollers.

Authorities have the opportunity to further advance their growth strategy and should craft the new regulations with stronger incentives for operators to expand non-VIP tourism,” the IMF concluding statement advises.

Macau casinos are already amid the process of pivoting away from the mainland’s wealthiest citizens to focus on the mass public. Five years ago, VIPs accounted for 66 percent of gross gaming revenue (GGR). Today, the affluent gambler is responsible for less than half of casino win across the region.

The IMF believes the 2018 opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that drastically reduces automobile travel time between the two SARs will help Macau continue its mass market growth in the years ahead. The fund adds, however, that “to accommodate the higher number of tourists under a mass market and non-gaming model, infrastructure plans should advance in order to ease supply-side bottlenecks.”

Research, Advice

The IMF review of the enclave concluded that Macau’s economy has returned to expansion for the first time since 2016. Gaming and tourism are fueling the rebound.

IMF analysts are forecasting economic growth of 5.3 percent in 2019. However, there are several potential threats to the projection.

The leading concern is mainland China, and the federal government’s ability to implement regulations that could case Macau’s economy to constrict. It was only in 2014 that People’s Republic President Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption crackdown on VIP junket groups and caused GGR to plummet from $45 billion in 2013 to below $28 billion three years later.

Another risk is the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China. IMF states that worsening trade relations could restrain the three US-based casino operators licensed in Macau from making further investments.

Continued gaming expansion in Asia could also impact Macau’s economy. Japan is expected to be home to three multibillion-dollar integrated casino resorts over the next five to 10 years.

IMF Explained

The International Monetary Fund was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Washington, DC.

Its primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system, but also “foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

Today, the fund has 189 member countries. In order to accomplish its goals, the IMF performs economic surveillance of its members, and issues advice to help aid their financial standing.