Macau casinos revenue jumps 82.5% in January after visitor surge

HONG KONG — Macau posted an 82.5% year-on-year rise in gambling revenue to 11.6 billion patacas ($1.4 billion) in January, after the world’s biggest gambling hub had nearly half a million visitor arrivals over the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

The crowds were the biggest in more than three years, but January’s revenue was still less than half of the Lunar New Year period in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to data released by Macau’s government on Wednesday.

A special administrative region of China, Macau has seen a resurgence of tourists from the mainland since Jan. 8 after the territory dropped all COVID-19 testing requirements for inbound travelers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Tens of thousands of tourists streamed daily into Macau’s casinos and picturesque cobbled streets over the Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 21, a stark contrast to the dearth of visitors into the former Portuguese colony since 2020.

Macau is the only place in the country where gambling in casinos is legal. It had closely followed China’s zero-COVID strategy since 2019 and re-opened alongside the mainland.

January’s revenues were the first for Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, MGM China and SJM Holdings under new 10-year contracts.

The casinos had launched under 20-year contracts in 2002, raking in billions of dollars and turning a sleepy fishing village into a glitzy boomtown.

The new contracts, with more government oversight and control, were struck after COVID-19 restrictions decimated Macau’s gambling revenues and sent net debt soaring. The industry had its worst revenue performance on record in 2022.

The city’s once lucrative VIP industry has also collapsed following several arrests in Macau’s junket industry. A Macau court on Jan. 18 sentenced Alvin Chau, one of the city’s most well-known figures, to 18 years in prison. — Reuters