Some leading gaming product manufacturers fear Macau’s electronic gaming market won’t return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2025, echoing similar projections on tourist arrivals recently released by the Macao Government Tourism Office.
Macau’s recovery timeline was a topic of discussion during a panel session at MGS Summit on Wednesday featuring executives from Aristocrat, IGT, LT Game and Scientific Games. It also follows publication by the MGTO last week of a review report into its 2017 tourism industry Master Plan in which it suggested tourist numbers may only return to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
Ken Jolly, Vice President and Managing Director, Asia for Scientific Games, and LT Game COO Betty Zhao, both predicted it would be some years before the segment reached 2019 levels, when slot machines contributed revenue of MOP$15.14 billion (US$1.89 billion) and Live Multi Game another MOP$2.84 billion (US$354 million).
“In our thoughts there will be a build-up in growth again as visitation changes,” said Jolly. “But we don’t see it back to normal until at least post-2025, particularly on the electronic gaming side of the industry.”
Referencing the MGTO’s review, Zhao added, “In terms of the good old times, there is a government projection that we will have tourist group numbers back near 40 million tourists per year in 2025.”
Not all are quite so pessimistic, with Aristocrat’s Lloyd Robson and IGT’s Michael Cheers both predicting strong numbers by 2023.
“I think there are three key stages to get through, one being the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, then we move into the CCP Congress next November and I do expect some momentum rolling into Chinese New Year 2023,” Robson said.
“I’m going with the year of the Rabbit, 2023,” added Cheers. “I think we’re going to hop back into business in Q1 and Q2 of 2023. That’s when we think we’ll be back to the new normal and a positive business environment.”
Cheers also noted that, while recovery may take some time yet, the COVID-19 pandemic had presented a unique opportunity for electronic gaming suppliers to grow the pie as players look for safer gaming options.
“There is no doubt the electronic space continues to grow in our market and that includes both ETG and the slot offering,” IGT’s Sales Director for Asia said.
“While some of the floors may be redesigned to help cater for some sort of spacing and social distancing in the format of bank layouts and so on, I have no doubt the ETG product is going to grow, quality slot products will grow and I think our customers have become more and more attuned to the electronic style of game offering.”
Jolly believes the recovery trajectory in Macau will largely be determined by what a post-COVID casino floor looks like, “something we don’t really understand yet, what gaming floors or restrictions will be about with product distancing.
“You look around the Macau market at the moment and anything from 41% to 52% [of slot areas] have their electronic product turned off, so as floors get changed and rejigged and we understand what health departments want, the casino floor is going to change dramatically,” Jolly said.
“That’s also going to reflect what players prefer in terms of how close they are. They will probably become a little bit more distant and product layouts will become different. There will be more pods rather than back-to-back banks so that we can get all the product on the floor turned back on.”