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HONG KONG, March 1 (Reuters) - Gambling revenue in the Chinese territory of Macau rose 5.7 percent in February, less than analysts had expected for the big-spending holiday period but still the 19th month of consecutive gains in the world’s largest gambling hub.
Revenue rose to 24.3 billion patacas ($3.02 billion), the third highest in the past 12 months, data from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination bureau showed on Thursday.
Analysts were expecting revenue growth between 7 to 12 percent.
The number of visitors during the national holiday week rose 6.5 percent in the former Portuguese colony, preliminary government data showed.
Revenues have rebounded in the special administrative region after plunging to five-year lows due to slowing economic growth and a widespread crackdown on corruption starting in 2014.
However, revenues still remain far off highs hit in 2014 and are around monthly tolls seen in 2012, Thomson Reuters Datastream showed. tmsnrt.rs/1VHwU5Z
Fourth-quarter earnings from casino operators including SJM Holdings and Galaxy Entertainment this week have been better than analyst expectations as gambling demand strengthened in the territory.
MGM China’s $3.4-billion casino resort opening was also in February, just ahead of China’s Lunar New Year Holiday.
Macau has seen wealthier tourists and more overnight visitors over the past few months as the tiny enclave pushes to diversify its offerings away from glitzy casino halls.
Entertainment, an array of dining options and leisure facilities have expanded, prompting overnight visitors to surge by nearly 10 percent last year, boosting Macau’s overall development.
Macau’s gross gaming revenue could hit $60 billion by 2022 as the number of visitors from China’s lower tier cities increase, coupled with higher visitor spending, Morgan Stanley analyst Praveen Choudhary said.
Infrastructure developments including high-speed train extensions and a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and neighbouring city Zhuhai, set to start operating in the next two years, are also likely to boost revenues, analysts say.
($1 = 8.0360 patacas)
Reporting by Farah Master Editing by Stephen Coates and Amrutha Gayathri