(Adds detail on revenues, analyst comment)
June 1 - Gambling revenue in the Chinese territory of Macau posted a lower-than-expected 12.1 percent gain in May, as gamblers wagered less in the country’s only legal casino hub.
Figures from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination bureau on Friday showed revenues stood at 25.5 billion patacas ($3.16 billion), just shy of the previous month’s 25.7 billion patacas. Analysts had expected a growth of 16-20 percent.
The higher revenue in May still marks the 22nd month of consecutive rises, with revenue gains in the former Portuguese colony surging after plunging to five-year lows on slowing economic growth and a widespread crackdown on corruption starting in 2014.
Earlier in May, China’s official State Council said its Public Security Bureau in the southern city of Zhuhai, which adjoins Macau, arrested over 100 individuals after multiple reported instances of theft among money exchangers at the border.
Gamblers playing in the former Portuguese colony, particularly in the lower-end mass segment, use both the legal and illegal money exchange counters at the border mall as a means to get cash to play in the territory’s glitzy casinos.
Jamie Soo, an analyst at Daiwa in Hong Kong, said while there would be limited impact on Macau’s fundamentals, the convenience factor “will undoubtedly be hampered.”
While revenue numbers remain at levels seen around 2012 according to Thomson Reuters Datastream, the government accrued 85 percent of its direct taxes from the gaming industry in the first quarter of this year.
Authorities have been pushing the six casino concessionaires - Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China , Melco Resorts, SJM Holdings and Galaxy Entertainment - to provide more non-gaming amenities and diversify away from casinos.
$1 = 8.0690 patacas Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Sunil Nair