Slow Start for Macau’s Gaming Market in Q1 20212 min read

Yes.. COVID-19 hit hard to Macau rather than other cities. Having relied heavily on gaming for years, the sudden stop in international travel and the shutdown of the city’s casinos brought Macau to its knees, with several months reporting almost zero revenue. 2021 could eventually show some recovery, but it’s not happening yet. According to analysts with Morgan Stanley, the first quarter of the year continued Macau’s limited gaming scene.

DBITDA Decrease but GGR Increase: Morgan Stanley analysts have provided an estimate for Macau’s gaming market and the figures highlight a very slow recovery. The actual results won’t be known until after all casino operators have reported their numbers, but the analysts predict combined earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $181 million for the quarter. This would represent a 23% drop from the last quarter of 2020 and greater operating expenses in the first quarter of the year.

However, gross gaming revenue (GGR) could see an increase. The analysts expect $2.95 billion in GGR will be reported for the quarter, which would be 8.3% higher than the previous period. Despite the gain, it is still 22.5% lower than the casinos’ GGR during the first quarter of last year. The estimate follows a flat March, which only saw gains of 3.5% over what was reported for January.

Macau wants its VIPs Back: Macau’s casinos are banking on VIP gamblers to help them find a rapid recovery from the global coronavirus pandemic. However, this segment is still almost non-existent, with the mass market segment providing most of the traffic. The Morgan Stanley analysts estimate the VIP revenue for the first quarter will have dropped 3% once the final numbers are available, while the mass market segment will have seen an improvement of 11%. They assert, “Many companies have highlighted that [GGR] growth was mainly driven by mass, especially premium mass, and that VIP remained sluggish.”

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As Macau’s gaming market changes, due to COVID-19 and other factors, how casinos target gamblers will change, as well. Wynn Resorts, which is behind Wynn Macau, has already noted that a shift is necessary in order to achieve longevity in the evolving environment and the operator’s CEO, Matt Maddox, said this past February, “It’s crystal clear that the growth drivers for Macau are really the sweet spot for our company, and that’s the premium segment, premium mass in particular.”

Before Macau can begin to see a greater rebound post-COVID-19, travel restrictions must first be relaxed. The city has always relied heavily on gamblers from mainland China, but there are still limits on who can visit Macau from the mainland and when. Macau’s chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, is trying to work with China to ease those restrictions, but concerns over another coronavirus outbreak make health and government officials reluctant to respond.

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