After years of growth, Macau casino revenue falls for 2nd month as China graft clampdown bites

HONG KONG – Casino revenue in the global gambling mecca of Macau fell for a second straight month in July as Chinese high rollers stayed away because of Beijing’s corruption crackdown.

Official data released Friday show that revenue fell 3.6 per cent to 28.4 billion patacas ($3.6 billion) last month compared with a year earlier.

The decline comes after revenue fell in June for the first time since the end of the global financial crisis five years ago.

The former Portuguese colony on the southern Chinese coast near Hong Kong raked in $45 billion in casino revenue last year, seven times more than the Las Vegas Strip.

Wealthy Chinese have powered Macau’s boom but analysts say some are avoiding the city as the ongoing corruption clampdown discourages lavish spending.

The World Cup also played a small role, as Chinese gamblers opted to place bets on matches during the football tournament held from mid-June to mid-July, rather than at the tiny Chinese city’s 35 casino resorts.

Revenue from private high-stakes, or VIP, baccarat tables likely fell by a fifth, said Grant Govertsen, analyst at Union Gaming Research. Chinese high-rollers prefer to bet at VIP tables, which account for two-thirds of Macau’s total casino revenue.

“The anti-corruption crackdown seems to be accelerating,” Govertsen said in a research report. That is likely to result in continued pressure on VIP gamblers, he said.

Macau is the only place in China where casinos are permitted. Foreign operators including Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International have benefited from the city’s turbocharged betting boom after a gambling monopoly was broken up a decade ago.