VIP market takes a beating in Q4 but Macau posts first sequential improvement

macau-vip-gamblingMacau’s VIP gambling market took a beating in Q4 2015, but the overall revenue number posted its only sequential improvement of the year.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), total casino gaming revenue in Q4 came to MOP 54.8b (US $6.8b), down 27% from Q4 2015. However, the figure was up 1% from Q3 2015, and any positive traction will be welcome after the pain Macau endured in 2015.

As expected, most of the Q4 pain was borne by the VIP sector, which fell 35.8% year-on-year to MOP 29.6b. Full-year VIP revenue was down 39.9% to MOP 127.8b. The VIP share of the overall pie slipped to 54%, well off the mid-70s peak of Macau’s heyday.

The mass market was unable to right Macau’s sinking ship, as it had its own problems. Counting slots activity, Q4 mass market revenue fell 14.5% to MOP 25.2b, although its share of the overall pie improved to 46% from 39.1%. For the year as a whole, mass revenue was down 26% to MOP 103b.

Slots revenue came to MOP 3b in Q4 and MOP 11.75b through all of 2015, declines of 5.8% and 18.6% respectively. Those ‘live multi-game’ stadium baccarat tables reported revenue of MOP 551m in Q4, down 7.4%. The full-year figure was down 6.2% to MOP 2.26b.

Union Gaming issued a report suggesting that Q4’s mass market figures were actually up 3% sequentially due to operators having reclassified many premium mass tables as VIP to circumvent Macau’s new smoking rules, which permit smoking only at VIP tables. The net effect exaggerates the mass market decline while disguising the true decline at the VIP level.

Operators have expressed optimism that the pace of decline will slow in 2016 due to their comparison with 2015’s already depressed figures. HSBC issued a report suggesting January’s decline would be in the 16-20% range, while Sanford C Bernstein analysts pegged the decline in a range of 18-22%.