First revenue drop in 3 years Macau's booming casino revenue growth came to a sudden halt last month as Beijing's crackdown on visits by mainlanders to the city threatens to derail six years of post- liberalisation gaming expansion. Monthly casino revenue fell for the first time in nearly three years to 6.9 billion patacas, down 3.4 per cent from a year ago and 28 per cent from the previous month, according to unofficial data reported at the weekend by Portuguese news agency Lusa. September's year-on-year contraction in gaming revenue comes in stark contrast to average monthly growth of 52.5 per cent in the first eight months of the year and was Macau's smallest monthly takings in 13 months. The sharp fall-off comes after Macau's secretary for the economy and finance, Francis Tam Pak-yuen, said last week that Macau's economic growth could come in at just 10 per cent this year despite soaring 26 per cent in the first six months. Casino revenue accounted for 60 per cent of Macau's gross domestic product in the year to June and Mr Tam's forecast implies there will be a 36 per cent decline in gaming revenue between September and December compared with the same period last year. Since June, the central government has been reducing the ease and frequency with which mainland passport holders, including non-permanent Hong Kong residents, can travel to Macau. Industry watchers have been dismayed by the measures, which to date no central or Guangdong provincial government official has explained or commented on. 'Overt actions to damage the health of the emerging casino business in Macau just don't seem to be in the best interests of China,' one observer said. The restrictions have progressively reduced the number of times individual mainland travellers can visit Macau - from once a fortnight to once a month starting on June 1, then to once every two months starting on July 1. In addition, from September 1 mainlanders travelling to or working in Hong Kong have been required to apply for a separate permit to visit Macau; previously they could visit on their Hong Kong permit. The South China Morning Post reported last week that from the start of this month, Guangdong residents will be able to visit Macau only once every three months. Shares in SJM Holdings have fallen 53 per cent below their July initial public offering price, while shares in the other five Macau casino operators have fallen between 51 per cent and 87 per cent in the past 12 months due to the visa crackdown, concerns that a junket commission war will eat into profit margins and the prospect of slower future revenue growth.