Macau casinos had a rough time of it as of late, so even when things don’t turn out to be as bad as feared, it can be construed as a positive development.
Casinos in the city known as the “Las Vegas of China” has been the victim of a Chinese government crackdown against corruption last year. As a result, this caused gaming revenues to drop by one-third of its overall amount based on government data in 2015. In fact, revenues in Macau’s gambling industry has dropped monthly for nearly two years straight.
In a city which is heavily reliant on the gaming industry, the massive drop in earnings caused the economy to take a massive tumble. Throw in the fact that there was fewer revenue generated from tourism and the year was a rough one for local businesses. It was reported in some quarters that the city economy shrank by as much as 20 percent in 2015 alone.
The city-wide decline has been felt by many casino franchises such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts who have casinos in Macau as well as around the world.
So when Macau’s April gaming revenues reported a smaller drop compared to many dire estimates, casino stocks actually rose. It still was a 23rd straight month where Macau casino gaming revenues fell, but the 9.5 percent drop was smaller than the 16.3 percent drop in March 2016 and beat the 13.5 average estimates as listed by seven different analysts in a Bloomberg survey.
Many investors took the better-than-expected numbers as a sign that the Macau gambling scene may be rebounding or at least adjusting to China’s anti-corruption campaign. Since the campaign began in mid-2014, many casino corporations have felt its unintended sting, particularly when it comes to stock prices.
Las Vegas Sands was as high as 88.29 in January 2014, but hit a nadir of 38.72 two years later. Wynn Resorts was around 245 in early 2014, but briefly dropped below 50 this January. However, Wynn has since risen back close to 90. By comparison, MGM Resorts have been relatively consistent, with a price of around 27 in early 2014 before dipping to as low as 16.18 in January. Currently, MGM’s stock price is around 21.
Macau’s declining gambling numbers have affected them to a degree, so any hopes of a rebound or at least a stabilizing of revenues would be welcome news for these companies. While April’s numbers may lend some hope, February’s revenue decline wasn’t severe either but the March numbers again proved to be harsh for Macau casinos. So many industry analysts may be cautious about the better-than-expected numbers at least until May’s numbers come out.
In some ways, Macau has become an even more gambling-centric than Las Vegas. The metropolis known as Sin City has diversified its economy to chase after tourism and entertainment in the form of sporting events, conventions, and music and entertainment options. As a result, decline in gambling revenue doesn’t hit the city as hard as a generation ago. Recently, MGM Resorts opened a 20,000-seat multi-purpose venue, the the T-Mobile Arena, in an effort draw more concerts and events and potentially a pro sports franchise to the city.
Macau has not diversified to that point yet and that is reflected by its focus on gambling industry. Now the city’s casinos are trying to figure out ways to draw tourists back through other attractions. In following what Las Vegas started doing some two decades ago, Macau casinos are seeking to create a better family atmosphere to draw in tourists who are looking for a vacation destination rather than a gambling center.
The gambling industry in Macau still produced an estimated $2.2 billion in revenues in the equivalent of U.S. dollars. However, the casinos there are still trying to stop the continuing decline. So, slowing down the falling numbers may count as a start.