As James Packer big notes himself around Australia — announcing hotel plans for Sydney and Perth and bagging anyone who dares to oppose or criticise him, such as The Sydney Morning Herald — he should be maintaining a close eye on his investment in small Macau casino owner Melco Crown, where revenues are under increasing pressure.

After registering monthly double-digit growth in gambling revenues over the past couple of years, Macau’s gambling revenues slowed to only a 1.5% rise from July of 2011 (just over $A3 billion) for the month. Analysts say the slowdown matches the slump in China and the tightening credit situation. A tropical storm late last month might have cut gambling for a couple of days, but the slowdown has been evident for months.

The latest figures came after a 12.2% rise year-on-year in June, 7% in May and more than 20% in the early months of 2012. Growth soared 42% in 2011, but has come back to a 17% rise in the first seven months to 2012. Meclo shares have recovered from the year low of just over $US7 reached late last month. They closed at $US10.53 overnight in New York, down a couple of cents.

Another factor avoided by analysts has been rising crime (including murders) and police raids and arrests in Macau and Hong Kong in the past month. Overnight there were 150 arrests in Macau at various casinos and elsewhere, according to media reports. Police also said 1300 people were questioned in the raids in an exercise named “Operation Thunderbolt 2012”. They would not name the casinos or hotels involved.

The raids came days after Hong Kong police separately raided 21 locations, also related to money-laundering by Hong Kong citizens in Macau.

Concerns about the re-emergence of Macau’s crime-ridden past surfaced in June after an attack on Man-sun, a high-profile businessman who is the largest shareholder in Amax holdings, and a female companion at a restaurant owned by his casino. As well two gamblers were murdered in a separate incident.

Back home, Moody’s credit rating agency warned Crown that if it builds the new hotels in Sydney and Perth and buys up to 25% stake in Echo Entertainment (which operates the Star Casino in Sydney) the company’s debt rating would come under pressure. Moody’s has previously warned that it would reconsider the crating of Crown’s debt to earnings ratio rose above 2.5 to three times.

Crown has said it is looking at raising new capital in a so-called hybrid issue (which attempts to be both debt and equity). Standard & Poor’s approves, but Moody’s has a tougher line on such issues and Crown will have to issue more than $500 million in new money that it had signalled it is thinking of raising.