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Macau casino revenue growth slows after typhoon disruptions

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Macau's casino revenue growth slowed in August after accelerating for three consecutive months as typhoons disrupted operations in the world's biggest gambling hub.

[HONG KONG] Macau's casino revenue growth slowed in August after accelerating for three consecutive months as typhoons disrupted operations in the world's biggest gambling hub.

Gross gaming receipts rose 20.4 per cent to 22.7 billion patacas (S$3.90 billion) last month, according to data released by Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau on Friday.

That exceeds the median estimate for an 18.5 per cent increase in a Bloomberg survey of eight analysts. Gaming revenue climbed 29.2 per cent in July from a year earlier.

The first of the two typhoons affected power and water supply at some casinos in the only Chinese territory where gambling is legal.

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The impact of the disruption, which prompted brokerage firms including Deutsche Bank and Sanford C Bernstein & Co to cut their gaming revenue growth forecast for August, may be a blip for an industry that's been on a year-long recovery despite China's efforts to curb capital flows.

Casino shares climbed ahead of the data, and generally held those gains after the numbers were released. Shares of Wynn Macau surged 6.8 per cent to HK$18.34, headed for the biggest gain since Sept 1, 2016, as of 2.06pm in Hong Kong.

SJM Holdings climbed 5.1 per cent to HK$7.18, and Sands China Ltd. rose 3.9 per cent to HK$36.40. The Bloomberg Intelligence Index of Macau casino sector jumped 4.6 per cent, while the Hang Seng Index was little changed.

Casinos in Macau have been benefiting from an increase in overnight visitors as well as spending by high rollers.

Overnight visitors to Macau rose 11 per cent in July while same-day arrivals dropped.

As tourists staying overnight spend four times more than day-trippers, it will boost revenue and profit for casino operators, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence note on Aug 25.

Revenue from high rollers has driven growth of the gambling hub this year. Suncity Group, the largest junket operator in Macau, expects about 40 per cent surge in total bets last month, Andrew Lo, executive director of Suncity Group Holdings, the listed vehicle of the group, said this week.

Total bets are forecast to increase by more than 30 per cent this year, he said.

Still, casino and junket operators are concerned that China's efforts to curtail capital outflows eventually will cut into their business.

The People's Bank of China imposed controls as the amount of money leaving China last year topped US$816 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with Macau considered a primary exit used by private citizens and corrupt government officials alike.

China's government said last month it would prohibit or restrict domestic companies from making overseas investments in sectors including the gaming industry, real estate, hotels and entertainment.

Regulators in the world's most lucrative gaming hub are deploying machines that require Chinese Unionpay cardholders to scan their ID cards before withdrawing cash to keep tabs on capital outflows from China and watch for potential money laundering schemes.

BLOOMBERG