Macao casino monthly gambling revenue climbed to its highest level in over a year in March, reaching 8.3 billion patacas, the local currency, equivalent to about $1 billion. Yet it remains far below where it had been before the COVID-19 outbreak and the rate of growth is slower than what it was in February.
Still, it offers a bit of hope to languishing casinos that business can begin to mount a comeback over the coming year.
Gambling revenue has been severely depressed since February 2020 when regulators shut down Macao casinos for two weeks to halt the spread of the coronavirus. While few cases have been reported in the city since, tourist travel restrictions have limited the ability of Chinese gamblers to visit the only place in China where it's legal to gamble. Gambling revenue plummeted 80% in 2020.
However, last September Beijing began relaxing those restrictions and integrated resort operators like Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), Melco Resorts & Entertainment (NASDAQ:MLCO), and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) have been waiting for the VIP gamblers upon whom they typically rely upon for most of their revenue return.
Las Vegas Sands, in fact, is going all-in on Macao, selling off its Las Vegas properties and focusing solely on the Asian gambling market.
Revenue should spike in April because the year-ago period plunged to one of the lowest levels on record, just 754 million patacas. If current trends hold, Macao could record at least a tenfold increase.
Even so, year-over-year percentage increases really don't carry much importance because the pandemic so severely reduced revenue. Instead, investors should watch the sequential numbers as a more meaningful yardstick of recovery. In that regard, March's 13% gain from February is encouraging as it defies the monthly trend for that period stretching back several years.