Surging economic growth appears to be the theme across many popular Asian gambling destinations, as Macau also recorded a sharp rise in revenue. Its slow recovery after the COVID pandemic allowed other gambling hubs like Korea to flourish, challenging the Chinese territory’s previously undisputed regional monopoly.
The Region Suffered Tremendously during the Pandemic
Korea and Macau’s casino industries closely paralleled each other during the early pandemic, suffering tremendously from the border closings and lack of overseas visitors. Since 17 out of Korea’s 18 casinos only accepted foreigners, travel restrictions nearly destroyed them overnight. Macau fared slightly better, relying on a slow but steady flow of local bettors.
As the world started to recover, the tables began to turn. China’s Zero COVID policy significantly hindered recovery efforts, allowing other gambling destinations across Asia to pick up the slack and attract the influx of foreign bettors seeking to spend their money. Korean casinos happily obliged, fueling the ongoing stellar growth.
Asian Gambling Is on Its Way to a Full Recovery
Paradise Co, South Korea’s premier foreigner-only casino operator, reported triple-digit growth as revenue rose 130% over March 2022 to KRW42.7 billion ($32.5 million). These results continue the positive trend from the start of the year. The first three months of 2023 saw Paradise Co’s revenue soar 152% year-on-year, reaching KRW135.2 billion ($103 million). Table game profits performed even better, growing 252% to KRW1.26 trillion ($960 million).
The positive trend appears to hold across Asia, as Macau also enjoyed a meteoric rise in revenue. March GGR smashed projections soaring nearly 250% above the March 2022 results. Revenue for the first three months of the year hit MOP$34.6 billion ($4.29 billion), representing a 95% year-on-year increase. Packaged tours from China played a substantial role in the recovery, helping the region return to normal business operations.
The Resurgence Offers New Opportunities
Despite the similar resurgence in gaming revenue, South Korea and Macau’s gambling industries have little in common. Korean casinos maintain their focus on attracting foreign visitors and rely heavily on integration with the country’s thriving tourism sector. Meanwhile, over 90% of Macau’s tourists traditionally come from mainland China and Hong Kong, with foreigners viewed as a welcome addition.
While each approach is suited to the country’s strengths, the pandemic showed the value of diversification. Macau is trying to diversify its offerings beyond gambling to become a more family-friendly international destination. However, with other developed markets like Korea offering arguably better tourism experiences, the Chinese territory has to carefully consider where to invest its resources to keep up with the competition.