asino revenue in the Chinese city rose to us$4.8 billion, exceeding analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Casino operators such as Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment Group have been adding shopping malls, entertainment shows and hotel rooms to draw mainland tourists to the former Portuguese enclave that has a population of about 600,000. More than 770,000 mainland Chinese visitors traveled to the city during the new year holidays from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, an increase of 23 percent from a year earlier, according to the Macau Government Tourist Office.
“Clearly, it’s evidence that there’s still pent-up demand to play from mainland customers,” said Philip Tulk, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Standard Chartered. “Macau’s becoming a more accessible and realistic spot for visitation.”
Casino revenue rose 24 percent during January and February, according to the gaming regulator. Standard Chartered’s Tulk said growth in the first two months exceeded his estimate for an 18 percent increase.
“Growth in March will slow due to the higher base,” Aaron Fischer, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CLSA Ltd., said in an e-mail. “The full-year outlook remains very positive, especially for the higher-margin mass market segment.”
Gambling revenue in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, grew 7 percent in January, the slowest pace since October 2012,. Six casino operators in Macau raked in us$45.2 billion last year, about seven times that of the Las Vegas Strip.
Sands China CEO Edward Tracy expects gross gambling revenue in Macau will rise in the “mid-teens” this year, he said in an interview last month.
Casino operators such as Sands China, SJM and Melco Crown posted higher earnings in 2013, and improved rail connections, infrastructure and added hotel supply are expected to help draw more visitors to Macau.
Galaxy Entertainment more than doubled last year in Hong Kong trading, helping make billionaire founder Lui Che-woo Asia’s second-richest person. He has a net worth of us$23.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Galaxy Entertainment is allowed to build 2 million square meters (21.5 million square feet) of gross floor area in Macau. The real estate is enough to quadruple its footprint, according to DS Kim, a Hong Kong-based analyst at BNP Paribas.