Macau’s gaming operators are facing a more subdued Chinese New Year than had previously been expected with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases across parts of mainland China resulting in some premium players cancelling their travel plans.
Analysts on Monday reported a slowdown in visitation to Macau over the past week, with daily GGR down from MOP$276 million over the first 17 days of January to MOP$171 million for the period from 18 to 24 January. Macau authorities have responded to the rise in COVID-19 cases on the mainland, which reached 124 new daily cases on Monday, by placing quarantine requirements on visitors from certain parts of six cities and provinces.
“GGR declined materially last week as travel from China came under pressure due to rising COVID contagion,” said Sanford C Bernstein analysts Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Kelsey Zhu in a Monday note.
“China has been instituting larger scale lockdowns and urging reduction in travel. The travel impediments will lead to reduced visitation into Macau for the next few weeks at least, with Chinese New Year visitation being impacted.”
According to Kenneth Fong, Lok Kan Chan and Rebecca Law from Credit Suisse, the premium end of the market is set to feel the pain over Chinese New Year with multiple cancellations in both the premium mass and VIP junket segments.
“Premium mass hosts … see more premium players canceling their CNY trips as they cannot obtain the visas to travel to Macau or they do not want to be subject to the quarantine requirements when they return to mainland China from Macau,” they wrote.
“Junkets … are also turning more negative as more players have been canceling bookings over the past few days. One of the top Macau junkets expects VIP player headcount for peak CNY period (between the second and sixth days) could be less than the last New Year’s Eve holiday.”
The analysts added that “the mass casino floor has become more quiet since last week. They believe there would be fewer players visiting Macau as provincial governments discourage people traveling during CNY.”
On volume estimates, Macau’s GGR over the past week has been 71% lower than the same period last January and 32% down on December 2020’s daily GGR average.
“Last week’s Average Daily Rate was the softest since the week after October Golden Week as customer travel has been reduced due to the rising COVID contagion and lockdowns in China,” Bernstein explained.
“Month to date VIP daily average volumes are estimated to be down 7% to 10% month-on-month with slightly higher than normal win rate and mass is estimated to be down 3% to 5% month-to-month.”
January’s GGR is expected to come in around 67% down on January 2019 levels.