There is still a ways to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, but the estimated $37.5m daily GGR in April shows that Macau casinos are starting to get healthy. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Still down 35% from 2019
After its worst year in a decade, Macau’s gambling industry appears to be on the comeback trail. According to a JP Morgan Securities estimate on Monday, the region’s casinos had daily gross gaming revenue (GGR) of MOP300m ($37.5m) for the week of April 12 through April 18. The investment bank called the total “one of the highest non-holiday readings post COVID-19,” though added the disclaimer that some of it had to do with “favorable VIP luck,” meaning that some deep-pocketed customers had bad days.
the entire month has been solid through April 18, estimating GGR of MOP5.5bn ($688.3m)
JP Morgan analysts also believe that the entire month has been solid through April 18, estimating GGR of MOP5.5bn ($688.3m) in total, or MOP280m ($35m) per day.
There is still a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Though these were certainly good numbers all things considered, they are still down 35% from the same period two years ago. Investment analysts at Sanford Bernstein believe Macau casino GGR for the entirety of April will be around that mark, about 60% of April 2019 results.
VIP customers couldn’t get to Macau
Unlike in most of the rest of the world, Macau’s casinos were only closed for a brief time early in 2020. The bigger problem for their businesses was that travel in the region was very restricted for most of the year, cutting off tourist visits and, in turn, cash flow.
The 41 casinos in Macau generated $7.57bn in GGR in 2020, a whopping 79% plunge from 2019. In June, gross gaming revenue almost completely disappeared, falling 97% year-over-year.
While gambling numbers were mauled across the board, VIP gaming outweighed everything. For example, analysts estimated that in the fourth quarter, VIP gaming was down 80% from the same quarter in 2019. All other gaming segments, for comparison, fell 63%.
Tourists slowly coming back
Things had already started looking better before April. Macau’s gross gaming revenue hit MOP7.31bn ($915m) in February, a welcome 136% jump from February 2020. It was the first month since September 2019 that saw GGR growth from the same period a year earlier.
April 16 saw the most visitors to the region – 34,252 – since before the pandemic
Additionally, Macau visitor numbers are trending upward. According to the Macao Government Tourism Office, April 16 saw the most visitors to the region – 34,252 – since before the pandemic. The average daily visitor count from April 9 to April 15 was 27,404.
That said, John DeCree, an analyst at Union Gaming, warns investors not to get too excited just yet. He told Gambling Insider that his firm doesn’t expect Macau casinos’ revenue and EBITDA to get all the way back to FY2019 levels even by FY2022.
“Based on commentary from government officials in Macau, Hong Kong, and China,” DeCree explained, “we may not see a complete reopening until mid-2022, making a full recovery in FY22 difficult to achieve.”