Macau casinos slump on city's plan to study limits on number of mainland visitors

Mainland Chinese visitors leave from a VIP entrance at the Starworld Macau Casino in Macau on Feb 17, 2015. A senior Macau official said the city wants to study restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists to ease overcrowding. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Mainland Chinese visitors leave from a VIP entrance at the Starworld Macau Casino in Macau on Feb 17, 2015. A senior Macau official said the city wants to study restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists to ease overcrowding. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) - Galaxy Entertainment Group led declines in casino shares after a senior Macau official said the city wants to study restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists to ease overcrowding.

The government will approach China's central government in Beijing to analyze Macau's capacity for visitors, and to consider how "too many tourists impact residents' quality of life," local broadcaster Teledifusao de Macau cited the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng as saying on a radio talk-show.

Galaxy fell 2.5 per cent to HK$41 as of 11:45 a.m. in Hong Kong trading, the lowest intraday level in more than two weeks. Sands China Ltd. dropped 2.4 per cent, while Wynn Macau Ltd. fell 1.8 per cent, MGM China Holdings lost 2.3 per cent, and SJM Holdings Ltd. was down 1.3 per cent. The benchmark Hang Seng index fell 0.6 per cent.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in December urged Macau to diversify away from its reliance on casinos, and turn the city into a world tourism and leisure center. Macau's casino revenue slumped an eighth straight month in January for the longest losing streak on record, as Xi's two-year long crackdown on official corruption and stricter travel rules have deterred high rollers from entering the territory.

There will be talks between Macau and mainland authorities from the capital and provinces, the Macau Daily Times newspaper reported yesterday, citing Tam who spoke to reporters on Feb. 19.

China introduced the so-called Individual Visit Scheme in 2003 to allow mainland residents to visit Macau and Hong Kong by obtaining entry permits without the need to travel with tour groups. The program was first implemented in four Guangdong cities in the south and extended to 49 cities throughout China.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau for the first four days of the Lunar New Year rose 6.7 per cent to 443,421, compared with the same lunar calendar period a year ago, according data from the Macau Government Tourist Office.