Gross gambling revenue for Macao casinos surged over 1,000% in April compared to the year-ago period, but considering revenue had all but disappeared in 2020, that's not much of an accomplishment.

Compared to March, though, gambling revenue rose just 1% to 8.4 billion patacas (the local Macao currency), equivalent to about $1.05 billion. While not a dramatic improvement, it marks a continued recovery in the market, with year-to-date revenue now about 2.6% higher than last year.

April's revenue tally is 64% below where it stood in 2019, though it's the highest monthly amount since the start of the pandemic.

Empty casino

It's been difficult for Macao casinos to lure back gamblers despite being open for over a year. Image source: Getty Images.

Considering China has been slow to bring travel and tourism back up to speed in Macao, the muted growth is not unexpected. Also, the casinos themselves provided investors with indications the recovery was going slower than originally expected.

Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), for example, reported earnings showing Venetian Macao revenue dropped 63% in the first quarter with Londoner Macao revenue down 72%. Melco Resorts & Entertainment (NASDAQ:MLCO) reported a wider-than-expected loss of $0.44 per share as the glacial march back to health dragged down performance.

Beijing is also initiating policies that could weigh on the region for years. For instance, China is adopting a state-sponsored digital currency to keep closer tabs on its people and their money, and Macao's regional government said it was considering making it mandatory within its borders. That would make the wealthy VIP gamblers who have been a mainstay of Macao casinos leery of returning and send them to nearby gambling markets, such as Singapore. 

Monthly growth in gross gambling revenue may continue at this snail's pace for many months to come.

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