Macau's gambling revenue hit with first annual fall

Global Gaming Expo Asia in Macau Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gaming revenues in Macau have fallen for the seventh consecutive month last year

Gambling revenue in Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub, has fallen for the first time on an annual basis since its casinos were liberalised in 2001.

Revenue fell 2.6% in 2014 to $44.1bn (£28bn), with December seeing a record 30.4% drop in revenue from a year ago.

The territory's annual revenue is still almost seven times that of Las Vegas, the world's second biggest gaming hub.

But, December saw the seventh consecutive monthly revenue decline for its casino, extending the downtrend.

The data released on Friday by Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau was not a surprise for market analysts, who had expected revenue to decline by 29-33% last month.

The prolonged slump in the sector has been blamed on the Chinese government's campaign to rein in conspicuous spending and corruption.

Gaming revenue in Macau fell almost 20% in November from the previous year, while October's fall was over 23% for the same time period.

Casinos hit

Macau, a special administrative region of China, is the only place in the country where casino gambling is legal.

Its growth skyrocketed after several international gaming companies opened resorts there when Chinese authorities ended a government-sanctioned casino monopoly in 2001.

But now the Chinese government wants the region to diversify its economy from its reliance on gaming to sectors such as culture, sports and retail.

Shares of casinos listed in neighbouring Hong Kong fell by between 32% and 51% in 2014, underperforming the benchmark Hang Seng index, which fell just 2%.

Shares of big names such as Wynn Macau, Melco Crown and Galaxy Entertainment were down more than 2.5% after the figures were released on the first trading day of the new year.

Macau's casinos have lost a combined $58bn in market value over the past six months, according to Reuters.

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