Macau boosts gambling revenue 21pc

September's take of 28.9b patacas comes amid efforts to overcome hurdles to increased arrivals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 2:59am

Macau's gambling revenue rose 21.4 per cent year on year last month thanks to robust spending by affluent gamblers.

September's revenue came in at 28.96 billion patacas, according to government data released yesterday.

The government is trying to increase the number of visitors to Macau from 28 million last year with the aim to transform the former Portuguese colony into an international tourism destination.

However, Macau residents and casino executives say it faces acute challenges in handling large numbers of tourists.

Long delays and rising costs have dogged infrastructure developments like a new ferry terminal and an elevated railway and there is no fixed timetable for their opening.

To help ease the visitor flows, Macau's government last month introduced "walking routes" to divert traffic from the city centre, which houses 23 of Macau's 35 casinos.

Analysts say the opening of a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau, scheduled for 2016, will mean that greater numbers of visitors will be able to visit Macau.

Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings and Melco Crown Entertainment - the six licensed casino operators - are all rapidly building casinos on the Las Vegas-style Cotai strip that will increase the number of hotel rooms in Macau by almost 13,000 by 2017.

Aaron Fischer, an analyst at CLSA in Hong Kong, said a rise in tourist arrivals to fill the rooms was achievable.

"Visitor growth in Macau historically has underperformed that of Hong Kong due to the infrastructure bottleneck and the lack of hotel rooms," he said. "Those constraints are likely to be alleviated in the next few years with the various infrastructure improvements, which should drive a recovery in Macau's tourist arrival growth."

In the short term, increasing gridlock on Macau's streets remains a sore point among residents. At the Taipa ferry terminal on a Tuesday morning, swarms of tourists were packed together at the arrivals exit. Casino tour buses jammed together in a long queue to take eager gamblers to the resorts, with the road completely blocked by incoming tour buses.

"They keep building the casinos, I don't know how people will be able to get around," said one taxi driver stuck in traffic behind a large tourist bus.