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A near-empty gambling hall at the casino of the Grand Lisboa in Macau on 20 February 2020. Photo: SCMP/Handout

Macau’s casino stocks surge as Guangdong authorities relax travel restrictions to the world’s gambling capital

  • Guangdong province will lift the 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors crossing the Macau-Guangdong border, beginning on July 15
  • Visitors must hold ‘green’ health codes and have tested negative for Covid-19 for seven days before crossing the border

Macau casino stocks soared on Tuesday as neighbouring Guangdong province eased Covid-19 travel restrictions that have contributed to massive losses in revenue in the world’s biggest gambling town.

Galaxy Entertainment closed with a 6.2 per cent gain at HK$54, after shooting up as much as 11.1 per cent, while Sands China, which also has a huge presence in Macau’s hot Cotai Strip of glittering new casino clusters, finished ahead by 5 per cent at HK$32.35, after jumping as much as 8.9 per cent.

Guangdong province will lift its 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors crossing the Macau-Guangdong border, beginning on July 15. Visitors must hold “green” health codes and have tested negative for Covid-19 for seven days before crossing.

The step is a move toward the eventual lifting of all restrictions for visitors from the province, who accounted for nearly half of all visitors to Macau last year.

The easing was a “positive surprise” and “an incremental step to border reopening and will lead to higher visitation and profitability,” said Jefferies’ gaming analyst Andrew Lee, who has a “buy” recommendation on Sands China, and “hold” calls on Galaxy and Wynn Macau, which rose 6.6 per cent to HK$14.30.

The visa programme that allows Guangdong residents to visit Macau – the Individual Visit Scheme – is still suspended, Lee pointed out. The visa programme accounts for 73 per cent of Guangdong arrivals in Macau.

Chinese authorities stopped IVS visas at the end of January when many cities and provinces across the country enforced travel bans and quarantines to contain the coronavirus outbreak, causing Macau’s arrivals from Guangdong to plunge by 98 per cent year-on-year. The 14-day compulsory Guangdong quarantine put into place beginning March 27 led to 4,537 arrivals in May, compared with 1.1 million monthly arrivals 2019, Lee said.


Sands China is Jefferies’ top pick among Macau casino stocks “due to strong balance sheets and future growth opportunities.” It pointed to the coming opening of The Londoner and the completed Four Seasons suites, which “could give it an edge in the market when reopening occurs.”

Macau casino operators have been bleeding money ever the pandemic triggered new travel restrictions. Gross gaming revenue in Macau collapsed 96 per cent in the second quarter, “and the outlook for the third quarter remains bleak, with a likely drop of 70 per cent,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Angela Han Lee. Macau casino operators experienced an aggregate US$1.4 billion loss in adjusted property Ebitda – net earnings with interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation – for the second quarter, she estimates.

“We expect the removal of the quarantine requirement will lead to a rebound in Macau’s gross gaming revenue following a 77 per cent drop in the first half of 2020, and help reduce gaming operators’ cash burn,” said Sean Hwang, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

“However, we expect the recovery in Macau [special administrative region’s] gaming market to be slow, given continued restrictions and new requirements for travel, sluggish economic growth across the region, and the public’s lingering fear of contagion,” Hwang said.


MGM China rose 4.8 per cent to HK$9.96, while SJM Holdings advanced 11.4 per cent to HK$9.50.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Easing travel curbs buoy casino shares