Coronavirus crisis empties Macau’s mega casinos
In the beginning of February, the government decided to close all casinos in Macau for a 15-day period following the news of the corona virus outbreak. This was the longest shutdown ever for the world's biggest gaming hub which practically turned the place into a ghost-town. On the 20th of February, officials ordered to open the doors for gamblers again but things have not gone back to normal since then.
In 2019 there were over 108,000 visitors to Macau per day and now only 50,000 per week. The vast, fancy, gaming halls of Macau are open, but thousands of baccarat tables are empty. The reduction of tables in the casinos aims to keep social distance measures in line. Each visitor entering a casino is obliged to wear a face mask, personal health declaration forms must be filled out and body temperature checks are performed regularly. Tourists from South Korea, Italy, or Iran are also facing compulsory quarantine of 14 days. Additionally, a 14-day quarantine rule started in China’s Guangdong province in late-March, and critics say this is “effectively the same as the casino shut-down" for Macau.
As there is no ferry service from Hong Kong or the mainland to Macau, the Hong Kong-Macau Bridge is the only way to get from Hong Kong to Macau.
The former Portuguese colony Macau, makes more than 80% of tax revenues from the gaming industry, which employs about three quarters of the territory’s 600,000 population. Since visitors are staying away Macau’s gaming revenue fell 80 percent in March from the year before, according to government figures. The revenue fell 88 percent in February when authorities suspended casino operation for two weeks. In April numbers are expected to expierence an even sharper drop.
Macau’s government last week said that it was “ready for the worst” and pledged to support small businesses and workers financially. To drive the local economy even further, Macau has offered permanent residents pre-loaded spending cards in the amount of $327 each to help generate business in casinos and local businesses.
Casino operators like Sands China or Wynn Macau- which have reaped huge profits over the past two decades of rapid growth – are now left to deal with the dip in business themselves. They are feeling financial pain, spending between $1.5 million to $4 million each day just to stay open, according to analysts, as revenues approach zero. Bigger operators like Sands and Galaxy would normally bring in $25 million in revenue a day.
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