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Macau casino revenue edges up 4.4% in Feb, outlook hazy

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Signage for the Venetian Macao resort and casino, operated by Sands China Ltd., a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp., stands in Macau, China, on Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019.

[MACAU] Gambling revenue in the Chinese territory of Macau rose 4.4 per cent in February due to resurgent high-roller activity after the new year holiday week but caution over slowing economic growth and the Sino-US trade war prevented stronger gains.

February's revenue was 25.4 billion patacas (S$4.24 billion), Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, said on Friday. The figure was up from January's 24.9 billion patacas and in line with the expectations of six analysts, who had forecast a rise in the range of 2 per cent to 15 per cent.

The overall revenue number was similar to monthly figures of last year, signifying stable momentum for the country's only legal casino hub.

As the special administrative region marks 20 years since its handover from Portuguese rule, slower mainland economic growth, a weaker yuan and a simmering trade war threaten to derail growth.

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Casino revenue shrank in January for the first time in more than two years, the government said, hampered by a lack of big-spending VIP players and a smoking ban imposed at the start of the year.

Located on China's southern coast, Macau is highly dependent on gambling revenues to buffer its finances. Taxes from the casinos currently account for over 80 per cent of the government's total revenue.

China in February issued guidelines for developing a "Greater Bay Area" around the Pearl River Delta, in a bid to spur growth in Guangdong province and the cities of Hong Kong and Macau.

Authorities have hardened calls for operators to diversify away from solely gambling and broaden Macau's economic base in order to lessen the territory's reliance on the glitzy casinos.

Gaming companies operating in Macau have another worry. Licenses of the six concessionaires -Sands China, Wynn Macau, SJM Holdings, MGM China, Melco Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment - begin expiring next year. 

REUTERS