Frequent China gamblers to Macau denied visas: Bernstein

Some frequent gamblers to Macau are having their visas turned down by Chinese authorities, further holding back gross gambling revenue (GGR) growth, according to channel checks from both Bernstein and J.P Morgan.

On Monday, Bernstein reported daily GGR of the latest week was only MOP50 million, which is some 44 percent below the average daily rate seen in April, which was the worst month since the borders reopened with China in October 2020.

An expected decline due to travel slowing after the Golden Week holiday earlier in the month, was part of the reason for the poor showing, but Bernstein said visa controls and Covid are also playing a part.

Analysts from J.P. Morgan said that whilst there has been no official statement from the Chinese government on this, the reports are similar to channel checks it made in February of the same, where some immigration offices said Macau visa issuance has been tightened for frequent visitors. 

China has vowed to intensify its efforts to stop capital outflows from Chinese traveling overseas to gamble. Authorities claim to have identified 90,000 people since 2021 who had been planning to visit casinos overseas and who had been persuaded to stay in the country.

The Macau government has urged the operators to broaden their player base by bringing in tourists from around the region, acknowledging that China’s policies are a problem for the local gambling industry. Last Friday, it said there may be some scope for tax reductions for those that managed to bring in more tourists.

However, at present, Macau’s borders are closed to all non-residents from outside the Greater China region. 

Bernstein said daily GGR in the week to March 15 was also 75 percent lower than the prior week. 

Month-to-date GGR is 83 percent down from pre-pandemic levels. The figure was also 58 percent lower than in May 2021. 

Bernstein now expects May GGR to be 85 percent below its 2019 levels, but could be worse if travel doesn’t pick up.