Macau casino operators listed here are struggling as more mainland Chinese tourists head to rivals in Cambodia, where travel costs are lower. NagaCorp, operator of NagaWorld, Phnom Penh’s only casino, logged $125 million in net profit for the January-June half — a 24% year-over-year rise. Macau’s casino leaders fared less well. Sands China’s bottom line for the half was 25% lower than a year earlier at $550 million. Profit at SJM Holdings, led by casino magnate Stanley Ho, plunged 39% for the half to 1.09 billion Hong Kong dollars ($140 million).
Shifts in mainland Chinese tourism largely account for these divided fortunes. Visitor arrivals to Cambodia rose 2% on the year for the January-May period, with most tourists coming from Vietnam, China and South Korea, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism. Visitors from China increased 12%. In Macau, mainland tourism dropped 0.4% for the first half, despite a 0.1% uptick in overall arrivals.
Whether in Macau or Cambodia, casinos’ offerings are essentially the same, according to Lau Siu Cheung of Prudential Brokerage. Cambodia’s advantage is in its low costs, including for food and lodging, NagaCorp Chairman Timothy McNally said.
U.S.-affiliated Wynn Macau will initially offer only relatively low-stakes, casual betting at a new location opening in Macau this month. Tables aimed at high-rolling VIPs are becoming less common in Macau, even as they catch on at NagaCorp. Cambodia’s lower baseline costs apparently make visitors more likely to spend freely on gambling.
On the Hong Kong stock market, NagaCorp reached a year-to-date high of HK$6.14 on Monday. Shares of Macau operators have had a harder time climbing. Though Chinese visitors are not yet fleeing Asia’s casino hot spot en masse, interest is undoubtedly growing in other locations.