A Tale of Two Sin Cities

Reopening from a worldwide pandemic was always going to be a risky bet for Las Vegas and Macau, the world’s two largest gambling hubs. New government data released on Monday shows that one city’s roll has come up snake eyes, while the other is cashing in more chips than ever.

Everyone’s Not a Winner

In Macau, the Chinese gambling Mecca, games of chance accounted for 80% of the government’s tax income and 55.5% of the city’s GDP before the pandemic hit. Nowadays, the go-for-broke mentality is just, well, broke.

Xi’s Gamble: Covid resurgences in South Asia and the looming prospect of a government crackdown on casinos — floated by China’s government in September after earlier and massively disruptive interventions in tech and real estate — have kept worrying gamblers on the sidelines:

  • Macau casinos reported their worst month of the year in October as gambling revenue fell 40% to $545 million, according to government figures. That’s 83% off pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
  • Only 8,159 tourists were counted during Macau’s Golden Week, a holiday when odds-makers figured 40,000 tourists a day would show up.

Viva Las Vegas: But then there’s Vegas, where high vaccination rates and pent up demand has the city playing a historically hot hand. Casinos on the Strip collected a record $2.1 billion in gambling revenue in the third quarter, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported last week. The previous record was $1.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Vegas’ city-wide gambling revenue is up 0.6% this year over pre-pandemic 2019. Revenues hit $604.6 million in September, a 9.9% increase over September 2019.

Now, if we could just get Elvis back.

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