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China – New casinos on hold in Macau after current Cotai expansion

By - 6 June 2014

The next growth spurt in Macau’s casino market will be the last for eight years according to government officials who are looking to put a freeze on new properties.

Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen said that after the current phase of expansion in Cotai was completed, there should be a period of economic consolidation allowing society to acclimatise to the new level of casino expansion.

Mr. Tam said: “After 2016 or 2017, there will be a seven to eight-year period without new properties.”
There are currently seven new casino resort properties being built in Cotai, all of which are scheduled to open between 2015 and 2017. Mr. Tam’s assertion would mean the six concessionaires would then have to wait until 2025 at the earliest before any new projects would be considered. The current casino concessions will however expire between 2020 and 2022.

The former swamp land of Cotai is currently the focus for casino development in Macau. Galaxy Entertainment will double the footprint of its Galaxy Macau resort by mid-2015 and will be Macau’s next major completed project. Melco Crown Entertainment has said the opening of its Studio City project is also on course for mid-2015. Las Vegas Sands will open its US$2.7bn Parisian casino resort, including a scaled version of the Eiffel Tower, in November 2015 with 3,000 hotel rooms. It has requested 450 gaming tables from the government. MGM Resorts plans to double its standing in Macau with the mid-2016 opening of its MGM Cotai project in 2016 with 1,600 hotel rooms, 2,500 slots, and up to 500 gaming tables. Wynn Resorts meanwhile says it will open the $4bn Wynn Palace on Cotai by Chinese New year 2016 with hopes of 500 tables and a 15,000-seat entertainment venue called Wynn Diamond Coliseum. SJM is building on Cotai for the first time with its Lisboa Palace opening in 2017 with 700 gaming tables and 1,000 slot machines as well as approximately 2,000 hotel rooms.

Mr. Tam is keen to reassess the future potential of the market once these venues are open with an eight year cooling off period with concerns over land, labour and infrastructure.

Analysts believe the new casinos will need 12,600 new and locally born dealers, yet only about 700 are available per year.

With table caps also in place, manufacturers of electronic table games look set to prosper from the new openings. Analyst Union Gaming says Macau’s ETG quota will increase to 9,000 in 2016 from 5,500 currently.

“With an increased focus on table game yields, and in the context of the market-wide table games cap in Macau, we think all Macau operators will continue to look at ETGs as an increasingly attractive option,” Union Gaming stated.

Each of the big new casinos in Cotai will have 500 ETGs each with other venues such as Macau Fisherman’s Wharf also installing EGTs.

Investors have shown their hand already at the prospect of Macau’s Gross gaming Revenues plateauing with share prices falling across tall operators following what was described as a ‘disappointing’ month in May, despite Macau recording its fifth highest monthly gaming revenue ever in May of 32.35bn patacas ($4.05bn).

Despite this representing an increase of 9.3 per cent from a year earlier, investors punished Macau shares traded in Hong Kong and the United States.

Sands China shares closed down 1.4 per cent in Hong Kong whilst Las Vegas Sands dropped by 2.6 per cent on Wall Street. SJM fell 3.1 per cent, Galaxy Entertainment whilst Wynn Macau dropped 1.2 per cent in Hong Kong whilst Wynn Resorts slumped by 4.5 per cent. Melco Crown dropped 1.5 per cent in Hong Kong and 5.9 per cent on Wall Street. MGM China dropped 0.6 per cent in Hong Kong and 2.9 per cent on Wall Street.

Market share is also narrowing with Sands China taking over SJM Holdings with the biggest share of the revenue. Sands accounted for 23.2 per cent of the market share, compared to SJM’s 23.1 per cent. Galaxy is closing in on number three position in the market with a 21.2 per cent share.

Investor concern focuses on a slowing of the VIP sector, however the mass market continues to grow at a rate of 30 per cent. Forecasts for VIP growth range from ten per cent to a five per cent decline
Ossolinski Holdings Chairman Matthew Ossolinski described the market as remaining’ vastly underpenetrated.’

Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson remains bullish on Macau saying the company’s Parisian property will generate earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation, or EBITDA, between US$1bn and US$2bn.

“It is very unlikely that there is any catalyst or anything that is going to happen in the near term, short term or long term” that will disturb the market, he said.

Mr. Adelson pointed to several aspects that could approve the market further such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge set to open in two years times that will allow direct access between Macau and Hong Kong International Airport. He added that he saw no major risk for current concessionaires when their licences are up for renewal. “I have no fear whatsoever,” he added.

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