Focus on Asia: Silver linings

Focus on Asia: Silver linings

  • Ben Blaschke — Managing Editor, IAG
August 2, 2022 2:00 PM
  • Ben Blaschke — Managing Editor, IAG

Given the extensive coverage of Macau’s COVID-induced woes of late, it would be easy to fall into the trap of believing that Asia’s recovery trajectory is stuck in limbo compared with the booming numbers being seen in Las Vegas.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Granted, our team at Inside Asian Gaming has provided particularly extensive coverage of the current pandemic situation in Macau, including daily COVID-19 case numbers and detailed information about the government’s prevention measures. This should come as no great surprise given that IAG is a Macau-based company and that Macau is still the biggest gaming market in the world (even if it has been a long time since actual GGR numbers have reflected this fact).

But look to any other casino market in the Asia-Pacific region and the signs are hugely encouraging.

Certainly jurisdictions like the Philippines, Singapore and Australia – which have traditionally battled for position as APAC’s second-largest market behind Macau – are all booking numbers not too far off from those enjoyed pre-COVID.

The Philippines, for example, saw its EBITDA return to 57% of 2019 levels in Q1, with Morgan Stanley analysts estimating this will soar to well above 70% by year’s end – possibly higher.

Mass table drop was already back to 75% of 2019 levels in the month of March, while slot volume surpassed 2019 in Q1. Word on the ground suggests these figures could all reach much closer to those 2019 levels by year’s end.

Likewise, recovery is well underway in Singapore and Malaysia after border restrictions were eased earlier this year.

In response to inquiries from IAG, investment bank Nomura said Malaysia’s GGR is tipped to reach 63% of 2019 levels this year, rising to 81% in 2023. Singapore will follow a similar trajectory, Nomura’s team envisions, reaching 65% in 2022 and 83% in 2023, while some analysts believe the iconic Marina Bay Sands will exceed 2019 GGR and EBITDA levels by next year.

Australia, while somewhat restrained in the casino space by external factors like ongoing regulatory inquiries and a crackdown on foreign VIPs, is also seeing some states exceed 2019 revenue levels within the massive pubs and clubs sector – where pre-COVID revenues were heading towards AU$20 billion per year.

Proof positive, perhaps, that every dark cloud has a silver lining.