Macau casinos reopen but outlook bleak

Macau casinos reopen but outlook bleak

Territory has Covid under control but lack of mainland visitors bodes ill for economy

A man exits a Macau LRT station near the Wynn Macau casino resort on July 4. (Reuters File Photo)
A man exits a Macau LRT station near the Wynn Macau casino resort on July 4. (Reuters File Photo)

MACAU: Macau reopened its casinos after virus curbs prompted almost two weeks of closures, but the industry’s outlook remains bleak as the Chinese-controlled territory grapples with the effects of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy.

While there is no official guideline on casinos’ operating capacity during the initial period of resumption, it’s likely that they won’t open many tables due to a lack of customers, said Stephen Lau, president of the Power of the Macao Gaming Association. The organisation represents workers in the industry.

The restart may do little to stop Macau’s six licensed casino operators from burning through millions of dollars of cash every day, as China’s suspension of quarantine-free travel discourages visitors from the enclave’s largest source of tourism.

Rounds of mass testing and the lockdown have helped curb the local transmission of the coronavirus, and authorities want infections to hold near zero to bolster the case for reopening the border.

Macau, which is home to 650,000 people, on Saturday reported five cases of Covid-19, compared with 146 at the peak of the outbreak.

Casinos and other businesses will be operating with conditions including limiting staff numbers to 50% of normal, and disinfection of venues. Activities that require the removal of masks for extended periods, such as eating, must not be done indoors unless there’s a separate room for each person. Dining in at restaurants remains banned.

Public transport also resumed, with passenger capacity capped at 60%. Bars, cinemas, nightclubs and malls, except street-level shops, will stay shut. The initial phase of resumption will last through July 29. 

“We won’t be seeing any tourists,” Lau said. “At the rate things are going, tourists may not come back until mid- or late-August.” 

Macau’s gaming revenue plunged 46% in the first six months of this year. The territory, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, was battered by repeated lockdowns and travel restrictions on the mainland since outbreaks erupted there in March. Macau saw its own flareup in June and entered a shutdown from July 11. 

The gaming industry may only collect revenue of $7 billion this year, which would be a 35% drop from last year and 81% lower than the pre-pandemic level in 2019, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley analysts.


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