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Macao pins hope on Golden Week holiday as August gaming revenue falls 95%

Macao's casino industry continued to reel under the impact of COVID-19 in August, and is now hoping that relaxed visitation rules and festival week in October will help revive its fortunes.

Revenue from gaming in August plummeted 94.5% year over year, the fifth consecutive month of declines of 90% or more, even though easing of travel restrictions in parts of the neighboring Guangdong province led to a modest increase in visitors to Macao.

Macao's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau said Sept. 1 that gaming revenue fell to 1.33 billion Macanese patacas from 24.26 billion patacas in the same month in 2019.

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Tourist visits in July fell by 97.9% year over year to 74,006 visitors, but the total was a marked improvement from 22,556 visitors in June. China's move to fully relax its 14-day quarantine rule in Guangdong province helped with the rise. Visitor arrivals from the province in July were 45,284, the highest since January, according to an analysis by Jefferies.

Analysts now are expecting the Golden Week holiday, from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, will encourage tourists to visit Asia's largest gaming hub.

In the run-up to the holiday period, the Guangdong province resumed visa issuance under the individual visa program from Aug. 26. The service is expected to expand nationwide Sept. 23.

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In a note, Jefferies analysts said that single-day arrivals during Golden Week 2019 were higher than the entire second quarter of 2020 and the event could accelerate the industry's recovery in terms of revenue. However, the year-over-year decline is unlikely to improve due to the ongoing public health crisis in neighboring Hong Kong, they added.

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Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. and Wynn Resorts Ltd. joined MGM Resorts International-owned MGM China Holdings Ltd. and Sands China Ltd. in reporting dismal second-quarter results.

Hong Kong-based Melco's total revenue dived 88% year over year to US$180 million from US$1.46 billion due to a significant decline in inbound tourism. Galaxy Entertainment, which operates integrated resorts in Macao, reported a 91% drop to HK$1.15 billion from HK$13.17 billion but said that it remained optimistic in its outlook for the region.

Wynn Macau Ltd., owned by Wynn Resorts, saw its total revenue plummet to US$20.6 million from US$1.18 billion.

"In Macau, the authorities have begun to gradually and thoughtfully ease some visitation restrictions, and we are confident the market will benefit from the return of the Chinese consumer as we move through the back half of 2020," said Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts.

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As of Sept. 2, US$1 was equivalent to 7.98 Macanese patacas.