* April marks this year’s second-highest monthly revenue
* Wynn Macau, Galaxy have received OK to open new casinos
HONG KONG, May 2 (Reuters) - Gambling revenue in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling destination, surged 21.9 percent to 25 billion patacas ($3.13 billion) in April, in line with analyst forecasts, after the opening of a new $4 billion casino drew strong demand from deep-pocketed Chinese visitors.
A tiny enclave off China’s southern coast, Macau’s booming casino town has been a goldmine for U.S. casino giants such as Las Vegas Sands, which have reaped stellar profits from their Macau subsidiaries.
Official government data published on Wednesday showed April’s earnings were the second-highest monthly total this year after January. Analysts said daily gross gaming revenue was the third highest on record, setting a positive tone for the rest of 2012.
Mainland visitors, who can access the hub via an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong or through the nearby Chinese city Zhuhai, contribute the bulk of revenues in Macau as it is the only place where they can legally casino gamble.
Sands China, gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s $4 billion company, opened its new casino opposite its trademark Venetian property on April 11 on Macau’s Cotai strip.
With economic growth in China cooling from its previously red-hot pace and small to mid-sized factories struggling, some Macau analysts remain cautious that a slowdown in the mainland, coupled with a rise in bad loans, could impact gambling revenues.
Macau, which earned $33.5 billion in gambling revenue in 2011, is expected to earn around $40 billion in 2012, with analyst estimates ranging from gains of 15-25 percent compared with 42 percent growth last year.
VIP gamblers, the high-rolling clients who bring in the lion’s share of revenue for casinos, are more sensitive to fluctuations in credit availability. These gamblers, who usually spend millions of yuan at a time, use junket agents who loan them local Macau currency to get around China’s currency regulations.
Victor Yip, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian brokerage in Hong Kong, said that while the first 15 days of April were not that strong due to seasonal factors, the last two weeks approaching the May holiday weekend accelerated significantly.
“You can notice that the daily gross gaming revenue accelerated. It is a short term trend but still it may indicate we are going towards a positive direction,” he said.
The Macau government is encouraging the development of more leisure- and family-focused properties on Cotai, a reclaimed strip of land 10 minutes drive from the enclave’s crammed peninsula.
Officials in the past two weeks have given the green light to Wynn Macau to construct its new 51-acre resort as well as Galaxy Entertainment to construct the next phase of its casino resort, which are both located on Cotai.