Gross gaming revenue for Macau’s casinos rose 44% year-on-year in 2021, but is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Macau’s casino sector had a much stronger performance in 2021 following a massively turbulent year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there were still pandemic-related issues to deal with in 2021, Macau’s casinos managed to generate gross gaming revenue (GGR) of MOP$86.86bn (US$10.8bn), a 44% year-on-year improvement.
still 70% lower than in 2019
However, this total was still 70% lower than in 2019; there is much work to be done in order to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng recently revealed that the local government believes that 2022 GGR will be around the MOP$130bn (US$16.2bn) mark. This would represent a 49% increase from 2021 figures.
Macau’s casinos finished off 2021 strongly, posting GGR of MOP$7.96bn (US$1bn) in December, which was an 18% improvement from the previous month. Visitor numbers also continually improved in the final two months of the year following the easing of border restrictions with certain regions of mainland China and Hong Kong. The daily visitor number to Macau bypassed the 40,000 mark for the first time since May 1 on December 24.
COVID-19 restrictions are still in place
While GGR as a whole has been improving, there are still certain restrictions in place in Macau. This includes new rules going into effect on January 6 for those people who are coming from certain high-risk countries amid escalating COVID-19 case numbers as the Omicron variant surges. There are about 22 countries currently on this “very high-risk” list, including the Philippines, India, and Cambodia. People from those nations will be subject to additional testing requirements and quarantine procedures upon arrival.
Currently, any foreigner that arrives in Macau needs to show a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours in advance of arrival. They will then face a 21-day quarantine period. Mandatory quarantine periods are currently not in place for those coming into Macau from many areas of mainland China and Hong Kong.
A big year for Macau’s casinos
This is set to be a big year for Macau’s commercial casino operators as their concessions are expiring in June. There are some indications that the six licensees will get new operating permits before the June expiration date.
There are also stricter regulatory conditions set to come into place which will see more scrutiny on capital that is going to Macau casinos from mainland China. The region is also going to have to deal with casinos canceling their deals with junket operators. The Macau Gaming Inspection and Co-Ordination Bureau (DIJC) ordered licensees last year to stop providing credit to players.
High roller gamblers have been a major source of revenue for Macau casinos over the years. Junket operators often organized visits for high rollers to Macau from mainland China and around Southeast Asia.