Macau reports highest monthly gaming revenue since the pandemic with $1.8B GGR in April

Macau casinos posted their best gaming month since January 2020 in April, delivering gross gaming revenue (GGR) of MOP 14.7 billion ($1.81 billion), a 15.6% increase from the level seen in March, according to information from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. The April period included two days of the national Labor Day holiday that extends until May 3. 

Gross gaming revenue in the city soared 450% year-over-year during April to smash the consensus estimate of analysts. However, it was still more than one-third below the 2019 level. Still, the start of the year has been strong for Macau as for the first four months of 2023, GGR is up 141% year-on-year to MOP 49.4 billion ($6.12 billion).

Early reports from Macau indicate that visitation levels are very high for the Workers’ Day holiday, with some hotels reporting a full level of bookings. As reported by local media, the city expected at least 70,000 visitors per day on average during the 5-day holiday, and had already seen numbers exceed 60,000 a day late last month. That would be about 64% of the average daily visitation in May 2019. The government is to release last month’s tourist data later this month. 

While the casinos’ recovery has been boosted by a domestic tourism revival, growth could flatten in the second half of the year when China adds more international flights and pent-up travel demand normalizes, according to Credit Suisse Group AG analysts, including Kenneth Fong. 

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg said that Macau’s gaming revenue this year might return to 56% of the pre-pandemic level, but a full recovery is likely to take years as the sector grapples with longer-term risks, including China’s crackdown on high-rolling gamblers. Gross gaming revenue next year is expected to recover to 71% of the 2019 level, the survey said.

Currently, casinos are facing a labor shortage that has caused some resorts to close hotel rooms and cut services, resulting in a surge in room rates and deterring some travelers from visiting. Hotel room prices are higher than they were in 2019, even though the overall booking rate is slightly below pre-COVID-19-pandemic levels, Morningstar Inc analyst Jennifer Song said.

Grant Chum

Sands China Chief Operating Officer Grant Chum last month said that the group only opened about 7,700 rooms in the first quarter, which means it had shut 38% of its hotel units in the period, and expects to operate near full capacity by the summer holiday season.

Last week, Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office (GIF) reported that 817 suspicious transaction reports (STR) were filed by city financial entities and gaming operators, a rise of 13.5% compared with the same period in 2022, in which there were 720 reports. The increase is attributed to a rise in the number of STRs submitted by the gaming sector, which accounted for 72.8% of the total. 

Levo Chan Weng Li

Additionally, last month, Levo Chan Weng Lin, chairman and controlling shareholder of Tak Chun Group, Macau’s second-largest junket operator, and co-chairman and CEO of Macau Legend Development, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being found guilty of running an illegal gambling ring worth billions of dollars, according to local media reports. 

The high-profile arrests and prosecution of Macau’s top junket bosses have occurred alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, which targets corrupt officials who may visit Macau to place bets and launder money.