Macau casino gaming revenue fell again in March, dashing hopes that the world’s top gambling hub might have reversed its nearly two-year decline.
Figures released Friday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) showed March’s gaming revenue total falling 16.3% year-on-year to MOP 18b (US $2.3b). That decline extends Macau’s revenue losing streak to 22 months, spoiling the belief that February’s 0.1% decline had signalled an end to the special administrative region’s oft-told tale of woe.
Most analysts had expected a decline closer to 15.5% while more bearish Macau watchers had suggested a decline in the low-20s was in the offing, so split the difference. For the first quarter of 2016, gaming revenue is down 13.3% year-on-year to MOP 56b.
Paulo Martins Chan, the recently appointed head of the DICJ, told Radio Macau this week that he was of the opinion that Macau’s “most difficult times are now behind us.” Chan suggested that 2016’s total revenue would be down around 10% from 2015 when all was said and done, which really only sounds good when compared with 2015’s catastrophic one-third plunge.
Recent visitor statistics cast further doubt on Macau’s alleged revival. The Statistics and Census Service said Macau welcomed 2.64m visitors in February, down 1.2% year-on-year despite February including the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. Package tour visits fell 34%, with visits from mainland China falling 36.7%.
China’s Ministry of Public Security announced this week that it would make it easier for some mainland residents to apply for individual visit scheme (IVS) permits to travel to Macau, Hong Kong or Taiwan. The changes would allow internal migrants who lack household registration documents to apply for IVS permits without first having to return to the cities and town they call home.
Despite the Ministry’s move, Macau’s chief executive Fernando Chui Sai On claimed his administration was “not actively requesting an increase in the number of visitors” to Macau, suggesting the town was already too damn crowded – with the notable exception of its casino gaming floors.