Macau's gambling market has definitely seen less spectacular results this year than last. The major gambling companies there, including Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), and Melco Crown (NASDAQ:MLCO), have each felt the sting of lowered gross gambling revenue on the Chinese island during the past two quarters as the VIP segment of gamblers has declined there.
However, there are still many reasons to believe that Macau has a lot more growth to offer in 2015 and beyond. With a vastly growing mass-market segment, as well new construction under way all over Macau from each of the major companies, Macau's medium and long term still look to be a great bet. Here are seven photos to prove the point.
1. Melco will have the next major resort to open in Macau
Melco Crown's cinematic-themed Studio City integrated resort is under construction at the end of the Cotai strip and is likely to be finished by summer 2015. This resort is going to be the first to open of the four that each of the major gambling companies has under construction. With the successful City of Dreams casino just down the street, this new resort puts Melco Crown as the end cap on either side of the strip.
2. Las Vegas Sands will continue to dominate the Cotai Strip
Las Vegas Sands will be the next to open a megaresort on the Cotai Strip following Melco Crown. As of now, Melco Crown has just one resort on the strip, and Wynn or MGM currently have no open properties there. Las Vegas Sands already dominates the Cotai Strip with The Venetian, Four Seasons, Sands Cotai, and more. When The Parisian opens, slated for later next year, Sands will solidify its dominance even more. If things go according to plan, following in 2016 will be the Wynn Palace on Cotai, and MGM's new resort there, but these properties will open as much as a full year after The Parisian has already been opened to the public.
3. The Parisian will be the most massive
The Parisian, a massive integrated resort, will help Sands continue offering not only the most properties, but also the most new rooms and gambling tables. The Parisian will feature an additional 3,000 hotel rooms and suites, about 450 gambling tables, 2,500 slots, a retail mall, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower at 50% scale of the real one in Paris, making it nearly 500 feet tall (150 meters).
4. The mass market in Macau is growing rapidly
Much of Macau's gross revenue in the past few years has come from rolling-table wins, the high-net-worth VIP segment of the gambling industry. Because of shady third-party activity and a subsequent government crackdown, this segment has been dramatically lowered, and that's why Macau's gambling revenues have struggled during the past two quarters. However, the mass-market segment of gamblers is what will drive growth in Macau going forward. During the third quarter, Macau's mass-market gross gambling revenue increased 16% year over year.
5. This bridge from Hong Kong will bring even more mass-market players
Most visitors to Macau come through the ferry service from Hong Kong to Macau that takes about an hour. VIP players helicopter in. But travel is about to get much easier. See that square of white sand in the back of the following photo? That's reclaimed land that is under construction as the parking lot of the bridge being built from Hong Kong to Macau. Once the bridge is completed, probably some time in 2016, travel from Hong Kong to Macau will get much easier, bringing more and more mass-market players to Macau.
6. Do you realize how close Macau is to Mainland China?
The right side of the following photo is Macau (from the Taipa/Cotai side, overlooking the bridge the leads to the Macau tower). On the left is Zhuhai, part of mainland China. The two are connected by the Lotus Bridge and are soon to be part of the bridge system connecting Hong Kong and Macau. What really makes this exciting is that the Zhuhai area near the border in the photo is developing rapidly with hotels and other attractions, including a nearby theme park.
7. Beware: Issues are sure to come up now and then
The protests in Hong Kong that took place in October (and are still going on to some degree) are an example of the kind of political risk that companies face. The massive amounts of people in the streets shut off much of central Hong Kong near where the ferry goes to Macau. Between that and the travel warnings for mainlanders to avoid Hong Kong during the protests, Macau may see its Q4 gambling revenues slightly depressed from where they could otherwise have been. Lower visitation is big possibility, especially as the protests happened during the Chinese "Golden Week" holiday that was expected to boost Macau visitation. Other issues could come up that might also cause volatility for Macau revenue and casino stock prices. So be aware that this is part of the gamble, but long-term, the odds look to be in Macau investors' favor.
Macau has had an incredible past decade of growth. Now that revenues have dipped in the past two quarters, many are afraid that the Macau growth story is over. With an increasing mass market of new gamers, new construction from every major gambling company, and a bridge making it easier for players to get from Hong Kong to Macau, there are plenty of reasons to think Macau has a lot of growth left to give. And while there will be challenges from time to time, for long-term investors, this growth story still looks like a solid bet.