Date
25 September 2017
Tourists walk on the Las Vegas Strip. Chinese high rollers have been staying away from the US gaming hub, helping curb baccarat takings. Photo: Bloomberg
Tourists walk on the Las Vegas Strip. Chinese high rollers have been staying away from the US gaming hub, helping curb baccarat takings. Photo: Bloomberg

Souring Chinese VIP market hits Vegas high-end takings

Chinese high rollers stung by an anti-corruption crackdown at home are staying away from Las Vegas’ baccarat tables, echoing a similiar situation in Macau, the world’s biggest gaming market.

Las Vegas baccarat winnings fell 36 percent to US$97 million in October and total casino revenue on the Strip fell 5.6 percent to US$520 million.

Baccarat accounted for the largest share of the decline, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing data from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The numbers suggest the drop in spending by high-end Chinese card players that began in June in Macau has spilled over to the United States, said Brent Pirosch, an analyst with CBRE in Las Vegas.

Other markets, such as Singapore, have also seen declines in baccarat play, as probes by the Chinese government and a weak mainland economy impact business.

Baccarat, a card game where players compete against a designated banker, is the most popular casino game in the Chinese enclave of Macau.

“It’s a global VIP problem,” Pirosch said. “It’s such a small, finite group,” he said of the Las Vegas baccarat market.

“It really only takes a few guys not playing, less than 100 folks, really driving that high-end play.”

The results in the largest US gambling market mark the third month of decline for a game that has become a big revenue generator for MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Baccarat revenue on the Strip has tripled since 2004 to US$1.6 billion last year, according to data from the University of Nevada’s Center for Gaming Research in Las Vegas.

More than half of Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s table games business in Las Vegas comes from Asian customers, company Matt Maddox said in testimony before Massachusetts gaming regulators last year.

The lower Las Vegas baccarat revenue is a combination of gamblers betting fewer dollars and the casinos winning less money from customers, Brian Miller, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said.

The house kept 10 percent of the baccarat money bet in October compared to 13 percent in the same period last year.

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