The worst year in the history of Macau casinos

Macau casinos ended their worst year on record with little sign of progress in a recovery, though hopes remain for a rebound in the world’s largest gambling hub later in 2021.

Gross gaming revenue fell 66 per cent to 7.82 billion patacas (US$979 million) in December from a year earlier, according to data from the Gaming Inspection & Coordination Bureau. That was roughly in line with the median analyst estimate for a 68 per cent decline, and follows a 71 per cent drop in November. Full-year revenue fell 79 per cent to 60.4 billion patacas.

Macau is struggling to lure back players more than three months after China relaxed travel and visa curbs, as gamblers still find it tough to enter the city because of a difficult and time-consuming application process.

Getting into Macau is actually getting more difficult, as the government tightened border restrictions because of a new strain of coronavirus that emerged in the UK. Under the new policy, residents from Greater China who have been to any country within the past three weeks will be prohibited from entering the city.

Macau has not seen coronavirus cases in the past six months – one of the longest Covid-free streaks in the world – but it’s still at risk as infections are reappearing in Hong Kong and parts of mainland China with the onset of colder weather.

Analysts expect a rebound this year. Monthly gaming revenue should show solid gains due to easy comparisons with 2020 figures. Sanford C. Bernstein sees gaming revenue returning to about 80 per cent of 2019 levels, though analyst Vitaly Umansky does not expect a significant easing of bottlenecks in the near term.

The Bloomberg Intelligence index of Macau casino operators rose 3.9 per cent in December, paring its decline for the year to 11 per cent. The benchmark Hang Seng Index added 3.4 per cent for the month.


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