Macau Gambling Revenue Up 10.6 Percent In April
Macau, the world's casino capital, raked in MOP31.3 billion patacas (USD$3.92 billion) in gambling revenue in April thanks to strong spending by Chinese visitors keen to place their bets in the country's only legal casino hub.
Gambling revenue growth in Macau, a special administrative region like Hong Kong, was up 10.6 percent in April.
A Portuguese colony until 1999, Macau earns the equivalent of Las Vegas' annual haul in less than two months. Annual revenues reached a record USD$45 billion in 2013, elevating the tiny territory high above rival gaming destinations.
Gambling appetites are seasonally more subdued in April ahead of a national holiday week in May when record swathes of visitors are expected to travel to Macau.
While 2013 saw rapid gambling revenue growth, expectations have been tempered for the coming year due to macro economic uncertainties in China and the potential for slower credit growth that could affect the VIP segment.
The VIP segment, made up of high-rollers from mainland China, has for the past several years driven the bulk of Macau's casino business, making up 70-80 percent of overall gaming revenues.
However in the past year, slower growth has seen the VIP segment usurped by the rise of China's burgeoning middle class who now account for more than a third of total revenues.
Junket operators, who loan Chinese VIPs millions of yuan to play in Macau, have come under increased scrutiny over the past year as a crackdown on corruption by Beijing has prompted a closer eye on their lending.
A recent high profile arrest of a large shareholder of a Macau junket operator in March and the disappearance of a small-scale junket investor in April has dampened sentiment for the high-roller segment with tighter liquidity predicted and less risk-taking as a result.
Local authorities and senior officials in Beijing are pushing to diversify Macau away from its reliance on gaming. The expansion of facilities for entertainment, retail and conventions are intended to attract a wider visitor base who come to Macau for leisure and tourism rather than to gamble.
Across the water from Macau's gleaming casino towers is Hengqin island, a plot of land three times the size of Macau that China is developing into a leisure and innovation hub.
Low penetration and improving infrastructure developments that will shorten the journey from the mainland to Macau are likely to continue to drive visitor growth.
While no new casinos are set to open in Macau this year, the gambling hub will see the opening of eight new resorts over the next three years.
Expansion in Macau and the surrounding area comes as rival gaming destinations from the Philippines to Vladivostok in Russia set up casino resorts to lure wealthy Asian punters.