Macau casinos start year with strongest revenue gain since 2014

HONG KONG: Macau’s casino revenue growth surged the most in four years as high rollers and leisure gamblers headed to the world’s biggest gambling hub before the Chinese New Year rush.

Gross gaming receipts rose 36% in January to 26.3 billion patacas ($3.3 billion), Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau said Thursday. That was better than the median estimate for a 27% increase in a Bloomberg survey of seven analysts, and the highest jump since February 2014.

“Overall revenue trends in January have been healthy,” Daiwa Capital Markets analysts led by Jamie Soo said in a note on Monday, “We believe this situation paves the way for a solid Lunar New Year period beginning in mid-February.”

Macau, the only Chinese city where gambling is allowed, usually benefits from the timing of the week-long New Year holiday, which this year begins Feb. 16. 

Analysts will be watching to see if Macau fares better than the Golden Week holiday in October, when the enclave reported disappointing visitor number and weaker-than-expected gaming revenue data. Casinos regained strong momentum after the holiday.

Macau gambling revenue extended a growth streak to an 18th straight month, with high rollers the biggest drivers in 2017. The Macau units of Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts Ltd. last week reported stronger-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter. 

Still, sexual harassment allegations against casino magnate Steve Wynn have cast a shadow over the industry and raised the possibility of closer scrutiny from Macau regulators. - Bloomberg
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