HONG KONG • Gambling revenue in Macau jumped 22 per cent last month, beating expectations, to hit a three-year high as a national holiday week saw visitors stream into the world's biggest casino hub and big bets from VIP punters.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony located on China's southern coast, is the only place in the country where casino gambling is legal.
Monthly gambling revenue came in at 26.6 billion patacas (S$4.5 billion), to record 15 consecutive months of gains. That was higher than analysts' expectations of growth of between 13 per cent and 18 per cent.
The number of visitors from mainland China during the holiday week, which ran from Oct 1 to 8, rose 11 per cent from a year earlier. Casino operators including MGM China and Wynn Macau said hotel rooms had been fully booked.
The holiday period was also one day longer than last year's.
During the third quarter, Macau's gambling revenues have been bolstered by growth in the high-roller VIP segment, with growth in the mass market segment lagging behind.
Earnings from Sands China and Wynn in the past week have shown strong VIP gains but analysts are cautious about the sustainability of recent strength due to macro-economic factors such as a slowdown in money supply growth.
The VIP segment - made up of punters who typically place around one million yuan (S$206,000) per bet - is, however, very volatile and casino operators are keen to develop the mass market segment.
Sands and Wynn, which have casinos on Macau's Cotai strip - a stretch of reclaimed land now home to some of the Chinese territory's most opulent resorts - are outperforming firms like SJM Holdings, which does not have a presence on the fast-growing strip.
SJM, which posted a 16.5 per cent fall in third-quarter net profit on Tuesday, is not expected to open its resort on the strip until 2019 due to delays from a typhoon and a recent fire.