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Macau recovery hampered by Guangdong visa issues: Melco

Macau, China city skyline at dusk.

Ongoing delays in the issuance of visas by Guangdong Province authorities are preventing more meaningful recovery for Macau’s operators, with the majority of revenue increases coming from other areas of mainland China.

The Guangdong problem was highlighted by Melco Resorts & Entertainment executives during the company’s 3Q20 earnings call overnight, who revealed that operating volumes through the last few weeks of October had returned to 35% of 2019 levels but could be much higher. Melco, the executives added, has been only marginally shy of breakeven in recent weeks after playing unlucky.

“A lot of our players are coming out of the non-Guangdong region,” said David Sisk, Melco’s COO of Macau Resorts and City of Dreams Macau Property President.

“We’re still having some trouble … in terms of IVS and how IVS is currently working right now.”

The Individual Visit Scheme, which contributed around 47% of Macau’s visitation out of mainland China in 2019, has gradually come back online in recent months – starting with Zhuhai from 12 August, Guangdong Province from 26 August and the rest of mainland China from 23 September.

But actual issuance remains “incredibly inconsistent between the provinces and the cities,” according to Sisk.

“One of the things you can see is you can go to a non-Guangdong Province, and it can take a day. In Guangdong, sometimes it can take 14 days. We still haven’t seen a real consistent pattern other than just the incredible inconsistency that seems to go on.

“A lot of our Guangdong players that came in early October have been told basically they can’t come back for two months. So we’ve really been focusing on trying to get our players back as quickly as we can. We continue to kind of maintain our contacts, but it’s really kind of hit and miss.

“I think that’s just going to be the way it works for a while and sooner or later, things will return to normal.”

Sisk noted that those players who had returned were displaying some slightly altered betting patterns, seen as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Players are playing down a little bit, meaning that their average bets are a bit lower,” he said. “They seem to be a bit more cautious. Playing time has not changed that much.

“One of the other kinds of things that we’ve seen a little bit is that the players don’t move between the properties as much now. So I think that’s probably more of a reaction to COVID.”

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