Macau’s sagging revenue growth should get a badly needed boost from a new agreement with China providing for extended operating hours at the main border crossings connecting the city to the mainland at Zhuhai and at Hengqin Island.
Beginning 18th December, the main crossing at the Gongbei Border Gate between Macau and Zhuhai will be open two additional hours. Full 24-hour operations will commence at the Lotus Bridge crossing between Hengqin and the city’s Cotai resort district. Also, the connection at the Zhuhai-Macau Cross-Border Industrial Park will be open to all Macau residents. Currently, it’s only open for employees of the industrial park.
Neighboring Guangdong province is home to the largest number of travelers from China to Macau, accounting for around 40% of total mainland visitation, and investment analysts are looking to the extended hours to help light a fire under a market that leads the world in casino revenue—US$45 billion in 2013—but is looking at flat to negative growth this year and possibly next, according to some analysts, as VIP play has nose-dived in the wake of an aggressive crackdown on corruption by the Chinese government.
Perhaps more worrisome is that growth on the mass-market side appears to be softening as well, and an increase in same-day visitors could provide a much-needed lift.
“We believe [the extension of hours] could be positive in terms of the number of hours spent at gaming tables by same-day travelers, and thus potentially for casino operator revenues,” Barclays analysts wrote in a recent client note.
“The changes to the Hengqin border would likely have a limited near-term impact, in our view, but could be positive in the long run as Hengqin’s development projects are completed and potentially attract more residents and visitors to the area,” they added.
Importantly, analysts also point to the extensions as evidence of Beijing’s commitment to Macau’s long-term development.
“Macau’s 15th anniversary of handover to China falls on 20 December [two days after new rules take effect], which is when President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Macau,” said Citi Research. “We believe this is his gift to the Special Administrative Region.”