Macau facing double-digit doom in March; casino croupiers an endangered species

macau-casino-croupier-declineMacau casinos are on pace for a truly sucktastic performance in March, spoiling hopes that February’s surge represented the beginning of a turnaround for the struggling casino hub.

February came within one-tenth of one percentage point of stopping Macau’s now 21-month streak of declining casino gaming revenue, but early indications are that the figures for March will be back to double-digit disaster territory.

Research firm Sanford C. Bernstein issued a report this week saying it expects March gaming revenue to decline between 18% and 24% from the same month last year, a significantly larger fall than the 10% Bernstein had previously forecast. While based on only the first week of March, Bernstein’s report show average daily revenue down 21% from February’s average.

The dire prognosis was echoed by Telsey Advisory Group, which said the month-to-date figures were “somewhat worse than expected.” While cautioning that there was plenty of time for improvement, Telsey suggested February’s strong showing was “driven by easy comparisons rather than meaningful improvement in market fundamentals.” Telsey expects a 24% decline when March is through.

Japanese analysts Daiwa offered a somewhat more positive tone, noting that March was traditionally a weak month, and so it’s sticking to its earlier forecast of a 13% year-on-year decline. So, er, huzzah?

Macau’s terrible 2015 performance was reflected in employment numbers released this week by the Statistics and Census Bureau (DSEC). In total, there were only 376 employees hired by casinos in Q4, an 81% decline from Q4 2014. Tellingly, the number of new croupiers hired was zero, down from 180 in Q4 2014.

The number of croupiers working at Macau casinos declined 4% to 24,619 in Q4 2015. For 2015 as a whole, total croupier decline was 4.4%, or 1,133 less dealers than in 2014. The decline came despite a net gain of nearly 250 tables in 2015 thanks to the launch of Galaxy Macau’s Phase 2 and Melco Crown’s Studio City.