Withdrawal limit no impact on gaming: Leong

The Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong says the city’s new withdrawal limits for mainland bank cards would not have any impact on the gaming industry.

Macau’s casinos stocks took a hit last week after SCMP reported that the Macau government was looking to cut the daily withdrawal limit from MOP 10,000 (US$1,251.9) to MOP5,000, which took effect on Saturday.

Since then, it has been clarified that the withdrawal limit only applied per transaction, and that the daily limit would remain the same at RMB10,000 (US$1,448). Casino stocks saw a recovery following the clarification.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Leong said the new measure aimed to maintain the city’s monetary stability and the legality of capital flows.

“[The government] doesn’t want people who have many bank cards to withdraw [huge amounts] of money,” said Leong, adding that the measure would render the withdrawals less convenient.

The Secretary added that the measure would have no impact on the gaming industry and on residents and tourists who use their bank cards for spending in Macau.

Last Friday, the Monetary Authority of Macau (AMCM) confirmed that both the daily limit and the annual withdrawal limit remains unchanged, and that changing the limits per transaction would “further strengthen the measures to regulate Mainland bank card cash withdrawals”.

“The above measure is not expected to have any impact on day-to-day ATM cash withdrawals through ATMs by Macau residents, nor will normal overseas cash withdrawals by Mainland bank card holders be affected,” said AMCM in the announcement.

In a note from MorningStar on Friday, analyst Chelsea Tam also reiterated that the new rules should not have any significant impact on gaming.

“In our view, the government’s cut of the withdrawal limit to MOP 5,000 from MOP 10,000 (to USD 626 from USD 1252) per transaction in Macau effective Saturday Dec. 10 will have insignificant impact as players can withdraw cash multiple times per day to skirt the new rule. UnionPay’s daily and annual withdrawal limit continues to be CNY 10,000 and CNY 100,000, respectively. High-end players most commonly pay commissions to pawnshops to withdraw cash in Macau, or they use underground banks to wire money; therefore, they do not necessarily have to rely on the UnionPay ATM withdrawal to get cash in Macau,” she said.

Bernstein on the other hand said there could be an effect on junket agent and premium mass players, but most base mass and lower end premium mass would not be impacted by the limit.

“We know that there are individuals who specialize in utilizing hundreds of ATM cards on any given day to withdraw cash and provide liquidity to junket agents and some Premium Mass players. This is where a slightly greater impact could be felt,” said the brokerage.