If you haven’t already booked a hotel room in Macau for the Lunar New Year celebrations, you better make other plans. The weeklong holiday starts Feb. 10, and Deutsche Bank AG analyst Karen Tang says 17 major casino-hotels in Macau are already fully booked for Feb. 12–14. During his post-earnings call with analysts on Wednesday, Melco Crown Entertainment chairman Lawrence Ho said his employees had told him visitors were “literally physically fighting over rooms.” Tang predicted the influx of arrivals could top the figures from 2012’s Golden Week in October, possibly helping to boost February’s revenue total 15% higher than last year.
More voices have sought to dampen expectations of a Beijing-led crackdown on mainland junket operators sparked by a report in The Times earlier this week. IGamix Management and Consulting managing partner Ben Lee told Macau Business Daily there was “no chatter on the ground” in Macau. The casino operators Lee spoke with are simply “gearing for a Chinese New Year of peak business.” Success Universe Group deputy chairman Hoffman Ma believes Beijing chose to float word of a possible crackdown ahead of New Year celebrations because it wanted “to alert the market and the people that they are watching Macau.” According to Ma, the most likely outcome of the rumors is that junkets will be “wary” of bringing Chinese government officials and directors of state-owned companies to Macau, forcing operators to “seek more smaller customers to sustain their network.”
Across the water from Macau, the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has been given a green light to comingle its betting pools with those of operators in other jurisdictions. After six years of HKJC pleas falling on deaf ears, the Home Affairs Bureau announced this week that it would put the Betting Duty (Amendment) Bill to the Legislative Council sometime in Q2 so that the law is in place before the HKJC’s new season starts in September. The Bill will stipulate that wagers are taxed only in the country of origin and the South China Morning Post reported the HKJC will apply a flat betting rate at 72.5% on receipts of local bets on non-local races. The scheme is predicted to add HK200m (US $25.8m) to the HK10b ($1.29b) the HKJC remits to the government annually.