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Macau casino shares jump on signs 2014 free fall is past

Shares in Macau casinos were higher Tuesday with analysts taking note of improving gross gaming revenue (GGR) data, hinting that the free fall of last year may now be past.

Media reports noted GGR for table games in the week ending Jan 25 had risen 6.0 per cent pointing to a “stabilization” after the visit last month by President Xi Jinping.

But as Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts noted, the measure was still down 7.0 percent compared with a year ago.

Xi’s visit came against the backdrop of an anti-corruption campaign to crackdown on illicit funds funneled through Macau, resulting in seven straight months of declines, reaching 30 percent in December.

The Bloomberg Intelligence Macau (China) Gaming Market index was reported to have fallen almost 40 per cent in the past year, citing policies including restrictions on the use of UnionPay’s debit cards at casinos. These policies made it harder for gamers to purchase high priced items that are exchanged for cash to gamble.

Union Gaming was reported as saying that industry stocks may have reached the bottom, with major listed casinos “poised for a rally”.

The improved outlook comes as media reports this week noted how the number of licensed gaming promoters in Macau – known as junkets – had fallen by almost 16 percent in the past year.

The report said the total had fallen from 217 in January 2014 to 183, with the figures including both companies and individuals licensed as junkets.

Later this month Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, is expected to release an updated list of licensed junket operators.

From the 34 junkets that were dropped from the latest list, 19 requested the cancelation of their licenses, while the remaining 15 did not renew their licenses.

Recently the Macau government said it had set up a special task force on the gaming industry, with a key goal of addressing the issue of potential job layoffs in the sector.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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