Macau gaming revenue fell 34pc in 2015

Hong Kong, January 2

Macau’s gambling revenue ended 2015 with a whimper, falling for a second straight year as China’s corruption crackdown continued to keep high rollers from the Asian gaming hub.

Revenue slid 34.3 per cent to a five-year low of 230.84 billion patacas ($28.92 billion), according to numbers released by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Gaming revenue fell 2.6 per cent in 2014.

December saw gaming revenue fall 21.2 per cent, declining for the 19th consecutive month as China suffers a painful growth slowdown and Beijing’s hard-hitting campaign against corruption has hammered Macau’s key VIP sector.

The figure for 2015 was in line with expectations of nine analysts polled by Bloomberg News, who predicted a decrease of 35 per cent. The city’s VIP section is also expected to fall 13 per cent in 2016, analysts told Bloomberg.

“Macau has been hit hard by China’s anti-corruption campaign which has deterred wealthy customers from visiting Macau,” Aaron Fischer, head of consumer and gaming research at CLSA, said.

“The year 2016 is not likely to be a very good year. However, after a 34 per cent decline in 2015, consensus expects revenues to be roughly flat, which is a big improvement,” Fischer added.

The slowdown in Macau, a semi-autonomous Chinese city, has been in part attributed to a high-profile corruption crackdown led by Chinese President Xi Jinping with Beijing making it clear it wants the former Portuguese colony to move away from gambling.

Casino operators in Macau — the only place in China where casino gambling is allowed — are trying to lure mass market visitors to make up for drop in high-roller gamblers who comprise the bulk of the city’s gaming income.

This has led to a slew of mega-projects on former swamp land on the coastal Cotai strip.

The latest launch was of the Studio City hotel and casino resort in October — featuring the world’s first figure-of-eight rollercoaster — that was fronted by Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn has previously said the situation in Macau was ‘uncertain’. “There’s no question that uncertainty is the plaguing word of the day in Macau,” he said in April.

Wynn Resorts in November said the opening of its new $4.1 billion Wynn Palace — a floral-themed 1,700-room resort featuring a lake with gondolas — would be delayed by three months to June 25, 2016.

Macau soared past Las Vegas as the world’s gambling capital after opening up to international operators in 2001 and raked in more than seven times its US counterpart in 2014.

However, it is now being forced to follow Vegas’ lead and transform from a hardcore gambling hub into a destination with much broader appeal.