(Bloomberg) -- Macau’s casinos had their best month since the earliest days of the pandemic, with gaming revenue surging 247% in March after Chinese tourists flocked to the gambling hub as the end of Covid Zero sparks a travel boom.
Gross gaming revenue reached 12.7 billion patacas ($1.6 billion), according to data released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau on Saturday. The result topped the median analyst estimate of a 205% year-on-year increase, and is the highest monthly takings since January 2020.
While March revenue rose 23% from the previous month, it was still 51% down from the 2019 level.
- Macau’s six casino operators are rebounding from a combined loss of $1.6 billion between 2020 to 2022 as China’s Covid Zero rules and a crackdown on the gambling sector kept tourists away.
- Total visitation by mid-March was about 65,000 per day, back to about 55% of 2019 levels, Morgan Stanley analysts lead by Praveen Choudhary estimated in a note on March 26. Macau reported 1.6 million tourist visits in February, or a daily average of 57,000, which was about 45% of the 2019 levels. The city will release March visitation data later this month.
- While visitor numbers have been steadily picking up, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a jump in gaming revenue. Macau has seen a surge in budget tour groups from mainland China, with members typically having less spending power than the high rollers that have historically underpinned the casino sector.
- China is also showing no signs of easing its scrutiny over potential frequent gamblers. Some people who have visited Macau more than three times in the past year have been required to apply for visas in person instead of electronically, Bloomberg News reported in March. Travelers can be asked detailed questions about their trip, while some have been denied permission to travel to the enclave.
- The restrictions have deterred high-rollers from visiting Macau, and China’s crackdown on junkets that provided credit to big gamblers essentially dismantled the VIP sector that accounted for half of gaming revenue pre-Covid. The city is now focusing on developing non-gaming activities and overseas market to attract more mass-market tourists.
- A Bloomberg Intelligence index of Macau casino operators fell 0.5% in March. The benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 3.1%.
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- Macau Faces Beijing’s Ire on Gambling as Visits Surge Post-Covid
- Macau Casinos’ Rebound Rolls on, Revenue Up 33% in February
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