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Macau casinos suffer losing streak amid anti-graft push

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The world's gambling capital Macau saw another month of decline in casino revenues in January, figures showed Monday, as a corruption crackdown by the Chinese government continues to rein in big spenders.

[HONG KONG] The world's gambling capital Macau saw another month of decline in casino revenues in January, figures showed Monday, as a corruption crackdown by the Chinese government continues to rein in big spenders.

Official figures published by the former Portuguese colony showed that gaming revenues fell 17.4 per cent year-on-year to 23.75 billion patacas (US$2.97 billion) in January - cementing an eight month losing streak for the gambling hub.

Revenues plunged a record 30.5 per cent in December and 2.6 per cent overall in 2014 - the first annual decline since figures were first released in 2002.

The slowdown has mostly been attributed to a high-profile corruption crackdown spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has reined in high-rollers from the mainland.

Beijing is also reported to be clamping down on illicit funds channelled from the mainland through Macau's casinos.

Rating agency Standard & Poors said the sector will experience a further decline in the short term, but it can be reversed if operators broaden their clientele towards China's growing middle class and non-gaming holiday-makers.

"We still view the long-term growth drivers for the gaming sector in Macau as good. Demand should remain firm, thanks to China's healthy economic growth and its growing middle-class, said the agency's analyst Joe Poon in a report.

Shares of operators listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange were mixed following Monday's announcement. Share prices in SJM Holdings fell nearly two per cent at closing while those of Wynn Macau rose 0.92 per cent.

Macau is the only part of China where casino gambling is legal and it overtook Las Vegas as the world's casino capital in terms of revenue after the sector was opened up to foreign competition in 2002.

Revenues hit a record US$45 billion in 2013, multiple times those of the American city, before the slowdown.

AFP