Macau Posts Third-Worst Month of 2019 as August GGR Slumps 8.6 Percent, More Than Double Estimated Decline

Posted on: September 1, 2019, 12:48h. 

Last updated on: September 1, 2019, 01:45h.

Gross gaming revenue on Macau, the only Chinese territory where gambling is permitted, slumped 8.6 percent in August. That’s more than double the four percent decline analysts were expecting, as factors such as bad weather and a slowing Chinese economy weighed on gaming activity in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Analysts badly underestimated an August decline in Macau gaming revenue. (Image: South China Morning Post)

Macau’s August GGR totaled $3.01 billion in the eighth month of the year, down from $3.28 billion a year earlier, according to data published Sunday by the region’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). Prior to the release of that report, analysts forecast an August decline of two percent to six percent.

August was the third-worst month of 2019 to date for Macau gaming turnover, trailing only April and June. It was also the fifth month of this year where GGR tumbled there on a year-over-year basis, and the worst monthly decrease in percentage terms, using year-over-year comparisons.

A slowing Chinese economy, Typhoon Lekima, and the protests in Hong Kong are all believed to have held back traffic at Macau casinos during the month,” according to Seeking Alpha.

Year-to-date, Macau GGR stands at $24.50 billion through the end of August, almost two percent lower than where it was at this time last year.

What’s Plaguing Macau?

Ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have also been cited as a reason for the decline in August gaming activity in Macau. But last month, analysts at Bernstein and JPMorgan forecast only minor impact on casino revenue because of that geopolitical uprising.

Although the Hong Kong International Airport was closed for a few days because of the protests, analysts speculated that gamblers there and from other parts of Asia would find other flights through other regions to get to Macau.

Softness in the Chinese economy, the world’s second-largest, and the lingering trade spat between that country and the US are widely seen as factors keeping gamblers, particularly VIPs, away from Macau last month.

Last week, President Trump indicated the US and China still plan to meet this month to discuss trade. However, a 15 percent levy by the US on $112 billion worth of Chinese imports went into effect today, as was previously expected. Beijing fired back with tariffs on $75 billion worth of American imports.

Both countries have incentive to ameliorate the tariff situation. The S&P 500 and the CSI 300 Index, a major gauge of equities traded on Mainland China, are well below their 52-week highs, and the trade levies are seen as punitive to consumers in both nations.

Looking For Better Times

Analysts expect that starting this month through the end of 2019, year-over-year comparisons will be easier for Macau operators to match. That could bring a welcomed respite for operators such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, which own a combined seven casinos on the peninsula.

Historical data from DICJ indicate that while September is usually a slow GGR month for Macau properties, activity often picks up in the fourth quarter. Last year, October and December were two months when GGR there exceeded $3.21 billion.