"Xi's visit definitely means more control on the gaming path, especially for VIPs," said one junket operator who declined to be named, referring to the high-rollers who accounted for two-thirds of Macau's revenue last year but now represent just 56 percent.
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Hong Kong-listed casino stocks have plunged 32-51 percent since the start of the year, widely underperforming the benchmark Hang Seng Index, which has dropped 2 percent in the same period.
New casinos, new restrictions
China is pushing for new development focusing on culture, sports and retail, instead of prioritizing gambling.
If casino companies don't comply, it may affect their licenses. Discussions on license renewals start next year, and the earliest concessions expire in 2020. The government has said it's looking at how effectively operators provide non-gaming amenities in their new resorts.
Casino moguls including U.S. billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are also under pressure to add non-gaming elements to secure coveted gambling tables.
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Adelson, who has led diversification efforts in Macau with an exhibition arena and hotels, is building a mock Eiffel tower replica, while Wynn is building a palatial $4 billion resort with a massive lake and air-conditioned gondolas.
Some junket operators said they welcomed Xi adding his voice to the calls for diversification because gambling accounts for the bulk of Macau's tax base and left the city vulnerable to sharp downturns.
"I think Xi's trip is a good thing for Macau, for the central government to show support and ensure stability," said a junket operator. "There is a lot of negative influence right now."