Macau casino gaming revenue rose for the second straight month in September, lifting hopes that the world’s top casino hotspot is finally on the rebound.
Figures released Saturday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) showed casino gaming revenue hitting MOP 18.4b (US $2.3b) in September, up 7.4% from the same month last year.
The results exceeded most analysts’ forecasts and continued the positive momentum established in August, which saw a 1.1% year-on-year gain that broke Macau’s 26-month streak of revenue declines. However, total gaming revenue for the nine months through September is still off 9.1% to MOP 162.8b ($20.4b).
Despite the good news, analysts are already suggesting that October will have a tough time sustaining the market’s new momentum. It’s still unconfirmed at this point, but China’s Premier Li Keqiang is reportedly planning to visit to Macau in October for a conference of ministers from China and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Premier Li’s presence would be ominous due to the lingering hangover from the last time a top Chinese government official visited Macau. In December 2014, President Xi Jinping used his time in Macau to warn the casino industry that more regulation and oversight was coming, comments that accelerated the downturn that began earlier that year.
HSBC Holdings and Union Gaming analysts are warning that the publicity surrounding Li’s visit could convince already skittish high-rollers of the wisdom of giving Macau a wide berth in October.
October 1 marks the start of the annual Golden Week holiday, which has traditionally led to a mass market gambling revenue surge. It remains to be seen whether this year’s surge will be enough to offset the expected drop in VIP gambling revenue from Li’s visit.