Star Entertainment Group says it is seeing signs of improvement in domestic business at its casinos as locals start to regain confidence in the Australian economy.
Normalised domestic gaming revenue rose 3.6 per cent to $1.64 billion over the 12 months to June 30, but that overall rise masked a dip from which Star is only now recovering.
Domestic demand started to taper off in mid-February and steadily worsened, chief executive Matt Bekier told investors on Friday.
"March was worse, April worse, May terrible. [But] June improved, July was better than June, and August is better than July," Mr Bekier said.
For a normal "big weekend" in Sydney, The Star would normally get 44,000 customers to its main floor, but that dropped to around 35,000 in the June quarter, Mr Bekier said while unveiling an 8.4 per cent drop in full-year profit attributable to international VIPs placing smaller bets.
"We're back to the 40s, so that's a positive turnaround."
While customers are still cautious, there are some "gentle green shoots appearing," Mr Bekier said.
Star's VIP business is also up since the end of the 2019 financial year, although that business segment is normally "lumpy" and six weeks is a short time to judge, Mr Bekier said.
Star's VIP business underperformed all last financial year, despite a 10 per cent increase in unique visitors, as big players placed smaller bets than they had in the past.
Normalised revenue from VIPs was down 30.7 per cent to $572.9 million.
"The domestic business is really what's driving this company, and has been driving this company," Mr Bekier said.
Statutory profit was up 33.7 per cent to $198 million, in part because gamblers had been unlucky at the tables.
Normalised profit, which strips out the effect of gamblers' luck, profit was down 8.4 per cent to $224 million.
Mr Bekier said that Star is still hoping to get approval for its proposed 66-storey Ritz-Carlton Sydney hotel adjoining The Star casino in the coming weeks, even though the NSW government's department of planning is recommending against it.
"We continue to be totally committed to this project: This is a great project, we are absolutely convinced that we have done everything that can be done and should be done to get the right approvals," Mr Bekier said.
"Unfortunately we have been caught up in some dark and murky politics that have thrown us a bit of a wobbly."
He did not elaborate.
The company has spent four years and $30 million on the proposal, Mr Bekier told AAP.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission is set to finish its public consultations on the tower on August 27 and then must make a decision on it within 28 days.
Mr Bekier said that Star had no interest in building the hotel elsewhere, and the company is pushing on with its other projects.
Excavation work on its Queen's Wharf project in Brisbane has been completed, with the entertainment precinct slated to open in late 2022, with four hotels and 50 bars across the equivalent of 12 football fields.
Construction has commended on the first of its two Dorsett Hotel and residence tower in the Gold Coast, and pre-sales are commencing for the second tower.
Refurbishment to its Sovereign Resort VIP area in The Star casino is expected to be completed in the June quarter of next year.
The Star said it had eliminated 343 staff positions in FY19, saving $40 million in costs as its finance, marketing and human resources departments were consolidated
Star shares were up 6.2 per cent to $3.80 at 1514 AEST.
STAR'S FY19 FIGURES
* Normalised revenue down 0.9pct to $2.16b
* Normalised profit down 8.4pct to $223.7m
* Statutory profit up 33.7pct to $198m
* Final dividend down 3.0 cents to 10 cents, fully franked