Macau’s casinos saw gross gaming revenue of MOP $10.32 billion ($1.28 billion) in February, continuing the strong performance following the lifting of most border restrictions on 8 January. According to data released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), the figure was 33.1% higher than the same month in 2022 when GGR was MOP$7.76 billion ($959 million). However, it was still 59% down from pre-pandemic levels.
Although slightly lower than January’s MOP$11.58 billion ($1.43 billion), February was not aided by the Chinese New Year holiday, which contributed to the three-year high in the previous month. Analysts had forecast the figure to be closer to MOP$9.5 billion (US$1.17 billion), making the current result higher than expected. For the first two months of the year combined, GGR is up 55.3% year-over-year to MOP$21.90 billion ($2.71 billion).
The change in performance for Macau’s casinos comes after the government announced the scrapping of almost all COVID-19 border restrictions as of January 8, including the removal of testing requirements for visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The city has also canceled all restrictions on entries to casinos, no longer requiring the presentation of health codes to enter the gaming facilities.
It also disposed of its mandatory hotel quarantine for foreign tourists, who currently need only provide a negative COVID test upon arrival. Ferry and bus services between Macau and Hong Kong resumed for the first time in almost three years. And late last month, Macau officials confirmed mask usage is no longer mandatory.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said in a recent note that it had raised its 2023 GGR and EBITDA estimates for Macau’s casino operators by 42% and 70%, respectively, citing better product mix and higher margins as Chinese customers return following the easing of border restrictions.
Over the rest of the year, an increase in the number of hotel rooms in Macau after the opening of SJM Holdings Ltd.’s Grand Lisboa Palace, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.’s Galaxy Macau Phase 3 and Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd.’s Studio City Phase 2 will be the major growth driver for tourism after the pandemic, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Angela Hanlee.