Macau’s declines in gaming revenue narrowed last month, after plunging at least 90 percent for six straight months, in a sign that China’s relaxation of travel and visa curbs is starting to attract mainland visitors.
Gross gaming revenue last month fell 72.5 percent to 7.27 billion patacas (US$910 million) from a year earlier, data released yesterday by the Macau Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau showed.
That was better than the median analyst estimate for a 74 percent drop.
Revenue in the first 10 months of this year has fallen 81.4 percent to 45.9 billion patacas, the data showed.
Macau’s recovery from COVID-19 curbs has been slow after China gradually lifted travel restrictions, resuming Macau tourist visas as of Sept. 23.
Demand has remained tepid due to COVID-19 regulations and muted sentiment from VIP high-rollers to gamble, with mainland Chinese visitor arrivals during Golden Week early last month down 84 percent from a year earlier.
However, gamblers are starting to return in volume as a visa backlog clears.
“Toward the end of October, the number of visitors increased, but it’s still far away from our normal level,” said Joe Liu, director of Macau’s largest e-payment company, Macau Pass SA, which is accepted in more than 18,000 locations, including restaurants and retail outlets.
However, he said that the visitors returning first are the high-spending customers who do not hold back.
Analysts say the key to a continued recovery would be a streamlining of the visa-issuance process and virus-testing requirements, which hinder mainland tourists from visiting Macau.
Fears that China is broadening a crackdown on offshore gambling have sparked a rush to withdraw billions of US dollars in Macau, threatening a recovery in the coronavirus-stricken economy, executives said.
The Bloomberg Intelligence index of Macau casino operators dropped 5.6 percent last month amid the slow pace of recovery. Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index gained 2.8 percent in the same period.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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