A new limit on the amount of money that can be withdrawn annually from mainland Chinese bank accounts while outside of the country could be seen as a threat to Macau’s casino industry, but experts largely say the impact on the territory should be minimal, if it is felt at all.

Macau Chinese cash rules

While SJM Holdings Executive Director Angela Leong says the new rules will have an impact, she expects her company to continue growing in 2018. (Image: Hong Kong Tatler)

As of January 1, those who have Chinese bank accounts are restricted to withdrawing a total of CNY 100,000 ($15,400) each year while they are travelling overseas, an amount that could limit how much some gamblers are able to spend at Macau casinos.

The rule applies to each individual person, so having multiple cards or bank accounts will not like a person get around this restriction, as was previously possible.

Analysts Split on Potential Impact of New Rules

The regulatory change has led to a wide range of predictions from industry insiders and analysts, who differ on how much impact this could have on the casino sector.

In a note from brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia, analyst Grant Govertsen said that they felt the new rules wouldn’t have “a material impact on Macau.”

“First, the limit of…$15,000 per year (rather than account per year) would only potentially impact premium mass players give that lower-tier mass players average annual theoretical GGR contributions are lower than US$15,000 and that VIP players are playing on credit,” Govertsen wrote. “Second, it is quite likely that many premium mass players have established overseas bank accounts already, which would not be impacted by domestic bank card restrictions.”

Govertsen also described bank card withdrawals as “a last-choice option” for many gamblers, suggesting they weren’t something most players relied on for their bankrolls. The Union Gaming note also pointed out that previous restrictions on bank cards had not significantly impacted the Macau market.

But not everyone agreed with this assessment. Three analysts from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein wrote a note suggesting that the new rules could have an impact on mass market gamblers, at the very least.

According to analysts Vitaly Umansky, Zhen Gong, and Cathy Huang, the real issue may be that the regulatory change could represent a change in policy from the Chinese government going forward.

“The new policies may portend further capital controls to come in 2018,” the analysts wrote. “We would continue to caution that the possibility of further capital control restrictions/scrutiny may be forthcoming.”

Continued Growth Expected in 2018

Meanwhile, SJM Holdings Executive Director Angela Leong On Kei said that while the rules would likely have an impact, it should be minimal and not enough to slow the growth of the city’s gaming industry.

“I think as with the start of any other policy, there will be a certain impact seen here,” Leong said on Tuesday. “But we still have billions of people from mainland China.”

Macau’s casinos saw their annual gross gaming revenue increase by 19.1 percent in 2017. That was a remarkable turnaround for the city, which has seen three consecutive years of falling revenues prior to last year.

Most analysts have predicted that the casino sector should continue to experience a strong recovery over the next year.