INTERNATIONAL GAMING STATS FROM 2016
The gambling industry has been an interesting place over the past few decades. The rise of Las Vegas, boom and bust of Atlantic City, recent unstable growth in Macau, and a changing consumer and economic landscape have led to volatility for even the biggest players in the sector such as Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International. Here are some of the mind-boggling stats from this past year that shed light on what’s happening in the industry now.
Macau’s gambling revenue is 3 times that of Las Vegas
Macau has a rich history, from being a Portuguese-owned trading port that saw its share of pirates, military posts, and gambling, to coming under Chinese control in 1999. It eventually became the only place in China where gambling is allowed, and its government went on to open the region up to foreign resorts. Once the first American-owned casino opened in 2004, the next decade was one of intense growth, leading to record profits quarter after quarter for Wynn, Las Vegas Sands, and others with the biggest bets there.
Gambling is such a big deal today that revenue in Macau exceeds that of Las Vegas three times over. Even more incredible, that figure is far lower where it set as of early 2014 — back then, Macau had around seven times Las Vegas’ gambling revenue.
What happened in 2014? That’s when the Chinese government imposed stricter regulations, hitting revenue and gambling stocks alike. After that, many analysts were quick to portray Macau as a has-been, as they do now with Atlantic City. But considering Macau still manages to pull in three times the gambling revenue Las Vegas does, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Furthermore, November gambling revenue was up 14% year over year in Macau, the fourth month in a row of year-over-year gains, which could be signalling a more robust turnaround.
Las Vegas welcomed a record 43 million visitors in 2016
While Macau brings in more gambling revenue, Las Vegas still brings in far more visitors. Macau welcomed around 30 million visitors for all of 2016, but Las Vegas hit a record 43 million. That’s equivalent to about one-seventh of the entire U.S. population.
What’s more, Las Vegas is looking to build on its record visitor numbers. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority’s Las Vegas visitor profile (link opens a PDF), which surveyed 3,600 people in 2015 about their Vegas experience, 100% of respondents said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their trip, and 90% said they were “extremely likely” or “likely” to return. Those high satisfaction marks, mixed with the fact that 16% of people were in Las Vegas for the first time, shows that the number of newcomers and happy returners should lead to more record visitation in years to come.
Las Vegas visitors have spent an estimated $12.5 billion on food in 2016
Those visitors to Las Vegas, not including locals, spend an estimated $292 each on food during their trip, or about $12.5 billion total, making up the third highest expenditure behind hotels and gambling. Notably, gambling revenue now makes up just about one-third of total visitor spend, whereas dining, entertainment, and other non-gambling revenue is becoming more important than ever.
The average gambling spend for visitors who gambled in the most recent visitor profile survey was a sizable $578, but the number of visitors who gambled was down from 77% in 2011 to 73% in 2015, and 50% reported that they gambled for two hours or less total.
Gambling is still a very important part of Las Vegas’ revenue, but an increasing focus on non-gambling entertainment is helping to drive growth for the big names in Vegas, such as MGM Resorts.
The four big gambling companies have a collective $39 billion in debt
The big four U.S. companies – Wynn, MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Caesars Entertainment – all carry a heavy debt load, with around $39 billion in total long-term debt among the four of them. That figure would have been about $16 billion higher before Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy dealings over the past year that has now made the casino company the least debt-burdened of its rivals.
Building multibillion-dollar resorts is a capital-intensive business, but debt is still an important metric to gauge how well these companies might do in the face of an economic downturn, sudden increased regulation, or other factors that could limit their ability to grow despite heavy interest expenses.
Wynn stock has gained 30% this year, but that’s still less than half of what it was 2014
The past few years have been rough for the casino industry, with shares of Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, and MGM each crushed between 2014 and 2016. However, those fortunes have largely changed in the past few months, as shares of each of those three companies are up since August, with the momentum seemingly on their side.
Going forward, there are likely to be plenty of twists and turns in the gambling industry, as there have been in the past — but right now these companies look to be on a rebound following the past two years of pain.
CALVIN AYRE’S CRYSTAL BALL PREDICTIONS FOR 2017
Calvin Ayre is a flamboyant Internet gambling tycoon who runs a web of offshore companies. He also lends his name to Calvin Ayre.com, a 24/7 news site covering the global gambling industry. Each year he makes predictions about what will make big news in the gambling world, and whilst he doesn’t always get it right, his views are always thought provoking. Here’s his list for 2017.
- BITCOIN EATS EVERYTHING
He predicts Bitcoins will be the single biggest development in 2017 and will eventually take over the whole global online gambling industry.
- PHILIPPINES LOSS IS ANTIGUA’S GAIN
It may not have gotten much play from the US- and European-focused gambling media, but this summer’s election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had a seismic impact on the vast Asian-facing online gambling sector, and the fluidity of the situation will likely continue in 2017.
- UK RESTRICTIONS AHEAD
The UK government hasn’t been too kind to its betting industry in recent years and I suspect more abuse is coming in 2017. It appears almost certain that betting sites will face new kerbs on television advertising, forcing companies to put more effort into creating viral videos that get their message across.
The merger and acquisition mania that gripped the UK market in the past few years will continue in 2017 – and looks like spilling over into the Australian market as well.
- NEW MARKETS
Brazil will finally put its political turmoil behind it long enough to pass its long-delayed gaming legislation.
People desperately want India to legalise sports betting and other gambling products but it’s not going to happen in 2017, at least, not at the national level.
Germany will cop to the inevitable and legalise online casino and poker products when it formalises its new sports betting rules.
Australia is going to discover that banning online casino, poker and in-play sports betting works really well… on paper. Just ask China, where all online gambling is banned, and yet somehow the entire Asian-facing online gambling industry caters to Chinese gamblers. The only thing Australia’s ban will guarantee is jobs for life for the handful of individuals tasked with compiling the daily lists of online gambling mirror sites that need blocking.
- NEW PRODUCTS
The so-called Millennial generation’s disinterests in casinos’ traditional electronic gambling offering hurried the arrival of new skill-based games in a few select casinos this year, and while the jury is still out on their ability to draw a significant crowd, it’s hard not to see more of these types of products migrating online.
- US MARKET
I’m repeating last year’s Pennsylvania-only intrastate gambling passage prediction for 2017.
As for what the election of Donald Trump as US president means for federal gambling laws, I think anyone who predicts what Trump will or won’t do based on his previous statements is simply rolling the dice. Yes, Trump is a former casino owner who has suggested sports betting should be legal, but he’s also beholden to Sheldon Adelson, who believes land-based casinos are the only form of gambling that doesn’t spread the Zika virus.
There will be bloodthirsty lobbying efforts by casino operators to win one of the coveted Japanese casino permits. I suspect there will be two main licenses and one smaller resort license up for grabs, and the recipients will be required to team with a local partner.