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Macau gambling revenue has tanked 80% in 2020 due to pandemic

Daniel Roberts
·Editor-at-Large
·4-min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered gambling revenue in Macau, the “Vegas of China.”

Through November, Macau gaming revenue is down 80.5% in 2020 to $6.58 billion, according to the latest figures from the Macau government’s gaming bureau.

In the month of November, Macau gaming revenue fell 70.5% to $845.34 million, which was worse than the 65% decline analysts expected, but still looks a lot better than the six straight months of 90% declines that Macau experienced from March through August, as CDC Gaming Reports points out.

In June, Macau gaming revenue dropped 97% year-over-year to $89.7 million, its lowest monthly gaming revenue ever. The numbers have picked up since then, suggesting casinos there have seen the worst of the damage and are on their way back, though a recovery is likely to be very slow.

Macau casinos hit harder than Vegas

Macau, located on the southern coast of China and a one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong, is the world’s largest legal casino destination by revenue, bigger than Las Vegas. The city is home to 41 casinos as of 2019, and only three U.S. casino companies have properties there: Las Vegas Sands, MGM, and Wynn.

In February, Macau forced casinos to close for two weeks; they reopened with masks and social distancing on Feb. 20. Nevada closed casinos for far longer: 78 days, starting in mid-March and reopening on June 4.

But Macau has been hit worse by the pandemic than Vegas.

MACAU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 04: Employees wearing protective masks stand at the entrance of a gambling hall as they shut a gate at the Grand Lisboa Hotel on February 4, 2020 in Macau, China. Macau government announced to close casinos for two weeks after a hotel worker is infected. Macau has 10 confirmed cases of Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), with over 20,000 confirmed cases around the world, the virus has so far claimed over 400 lives.(Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Employees wearing protective masks stand at the entrance of a gambling hall as they shut a gate at the Grand Lisboa Hotel on February 4, 2020 in Macau, China. Macau government announced casinos would close for two weeks after a hotel worker is infected. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Nevada statewide gaming revenues were down 36.5% through October (November numbers will not be out until late December), and in the month of October declined 19.5% year over year, the lowest monthly drop since the start of the U.S. pandemic in March. In other words, Vegas casinos are bouncing back faster than Macau casinos.

The picture is still far from rosy. Analysts predict that it will take well into 2021 for casinos in the U.S. or China to return to pre-pandemic levels, since the biggest question mark is customer comfort (the same variable threatening movie theaters, theme parks, airlines and hotels).

Betting stocks surging amid mobile sportsbook race

Most interestingly, the pandemic hit to physical casinos has come at a time when U.S. sports betting tech companies have surged, taking advantage of states legalizing sports betting and bettors being stuck at home.

DraftKings, FanDuel, and Penn Gaming have been in arms race in 2020 to launch state-by-state sportsbook operations and sign betting partnerships with pro sports franchises, and their stock prices have surged. DraftKings and FanDuel both said they saw record levels of user signups this fall for their betting apps.

DraftKings stock is up 190% since it became public on Apr. 24 by merging with the already-public Diamond Eagle SPAC, which changed its name and stock ticker to DraftKings (DKNG). DraftKings has announced sports betting partnerships with the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs in MLB, and the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in the NBA, along with PGA Tour golfer Bryson DeChambeau.

FanDuel’s Irish parent company Flutter (rebranded in the U.S. from Paddy Power Betfair) is up 44% in 2020 (PDYPY). FanDuel has signed betting partnerships with the NFL’s Denver Broncos and NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and Detroit Pistons.

Penn Gaming, the Philadelphia-based casino operator, bought a majority stake in media brand Barstool Sports this year for $450 million, then launched a Barstool-branded legal sportsbook app in Pennsylvania in September. Penn stock (PENN) is up 180% in 2020.

Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance
Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance

In the U.S., 26 states now have some form of legalized sports betting, but only 12 have legalized mobile sports betting, allowing wagers from a smartphone app. (States must legalize physical and mobile betting separately.)

The U.S. mobile betting market is estimated to top $21 billion for 2020, though it represents less than 30% of the global mobile betting market.

With a few exceptions, the big U.S. casino names have stayed out of the mobile sportsbook race.

MGM launched its BetMGM app in six states, and signed an exclusive deal with the Tennessee Titans. Golden Nugget and Borgata both launched mobile betting apps in New Jersey. (New Jersey has become a strong No. 2 U.S. betting market to Nevada, and multiple times in the past two years has taken in more monthly gaming revenue than Nevada; over 80% of New Jersey monthly gaming revenue comes from mobile bets.)

Otherwise, amid the rise of DraftKings and FanDuel—which first built their brands through daily fantasy sports (DFS) and now betting—Nevada casinos have mostly stayed on the sideline. They’re betting that the crowds will return once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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