Posted on: May 1, 2021, 08:03h.
Last updated on: May 1, 2021, 08:03h.
Macau casinos won MOP8.4 billion (US$1.05 billion) in April, the highest monthly total for the Chinese Special Administrative Region since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The gross gaming revenue (GGR) number represents a 1.1 percent premium on March, and a more than 1,000 percent year-over-year gain. At this time last year, Macau’s borders were closed to nearly everyone, with only limited exceptions made for those assisting in the pandemic response.
April 2021 marks only the second time since the coronavirus changed the world that Macau’s six licensed commercial casino operators won at least $1 billion. The first came in March.
While the first four months of 2021 are showing promise of a return of business for the world’s richest gaming center, April’s GGR aggregate is still down more than 64 percent from April 2019.
Betting on Pent-up Demand
Holidays are an essential part of Chinese culture, and today marks one of the seven major celebrations. May 1 is Labor Day, which observes workers of all positions and levels in the People’s Republic.
Labor Day traditionally includes three days off of work. Paired with May 1 falling on a Saturday, the 2021 holiday is a five-day affair. And after more than a year of largely being confined to their homes and local areas, travel analysts are expecting a flood of visitors into Macau.
According to Chinese travel portal Qunar.com, hotel room bookings for Macau from today through May 5 are up 17 percent from pre-pandemic levels experienced during the 2019 Labor Day. Flight data shows that scheduled trips into the enclave increased 60 percent from late March through the end of April.
We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen in terms of the forward bookings,” Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho said during his company’s first quarter earnings call last week. “Life is going back to normal within China.”
The trouble for Macau’s casino operators isn’t the enclave battling COVID-19, as the region hasn’t reported a new locally transmitted positive case in more than a year. Instead, it’s getting mainland residents into Macau.
The mainland government continues to make obtaining a travel permit difficult for residents. Same-day electronic Individual Visa Scheme (IVS) documents remain on hold, meaning people must apply in person and wait as long as two weeks for their cross-border travel privileges.
The Macau Public Security Police, which tracks the flow of people in and out of the region, says it expects around 40,000 people to enter the enclave’s borders each day during the Labor Day festivities.
While data for April hasn’t yet been released, in March 754,541 people made their way into Macau. That averages out to roughly 24,340 people per day.
Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein, like Ho, is optimistic regarding Macau’s recovery.
“We continue to have a strong belief in the Macau recovery because the March numbers were very different from those in January and February,” Goldstein said on April 22 prior to April’s strong GGR report. “Obviously, we cannot define the timing of the full recovery, but it’s underway.”