* Monthly haul of $4.4 billion is third-highest on record
* March revenue at the top end of analyst estimates
(Adds details on market, VIP segment, shares)
By Farah Master
HONG KONG, April 1 Macau, the world's casino
capital, raked in $4.4 billion in gambling revenues in March,
boosted by robust demand from Chinese visitors keen to bet in
the country's only legal casino hub.
Growth in Macau, a special administrative region like
neighbouring Hong Kong, was up 13 percent in March, at the top
end of analyst estimates of 10-13 percent.
A Portuguese colony until 1999, Macau earns the equivalent
of Las Vegas's annual haul in less than two months. Annual
revenues reached a record $45 billion in 2013, elevating the
tiny territory high above rival gaming destinations.
Gambling demand is seasonally more subdued in March after a
surge in revenues seen during a week-long national holiday in
China that marks the start of the new year. February's revenues
flew past expectations amounting to $4.8 billion, compared to
Singapore's 2013 annual haul of $6 billion and Las Vegas's $6.5
While 2013 saw rapid gambling revenue growth, analysts have
more tempered expectations for the coming year due to macro
economic uncertainties in China and the potential for slower
credit growth that could impact liquidity of the high roller VIP
The VIP segment, made up of high-rollers from the mainland,
has for the past several years driven the bulk of Macau's casino
business, making up 70-80 percent of overall gaming revenues.
However in the past year, lacklustre growth has seen the VIP
segment usurped by the rise of China's burgeoning middle class,
which now accounts for over more than a third of total revenues.
One of the world's fastest growing-economies for the last
three years, Macau has been a gold mine for gaming operators
including U.S. billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn whose
companies, Sands China and Wynn Macau,
posted strong fourth-quarter earnings.
Shares of Hong Kong listed casino companies jumped on
Tuesday, fuelled by funds buying into the sector after
government data showed a faster than expected pick up in revenue
over the past week. March's monthly haul was the third highest
on record. Stocks in companies like Galaxy Entertainment Group
Ltd, Sands China and Wynn Macau rose more than 7
While no new casinos are set to open in Macau this year, the
gambling hub will see the opening of eight new resorts over the
next three years.
Low penetration and improving infrastructure developments
that will shorten the journey from the mainland to Macau's
location on China's southern coast are likely to continue to
drive visitation growth and demand for gambling say analysts.
Macau's expansion comes as rival gaming destinations from
the Philippines to Vladivostok in Russia are setting up casino
resorts to lure wealthy Asian gamblers.
Local authorities and top officials in Beijing are pushing
to diversify Macau away from its reliance on gaming. The
expansion of facilities for entertainment, retail and
conventions are intended to attract a wider visitor base who
come to Macau for leisure and tourism rather than to gamble.
($1 = 7.99 Macau patacas)
(Editing by Matt Driskill)