Macau casinos reopen

By Noah Taylor Updated
Macau visitors locked out as border changes loom

Nearly all Macau casinos have reopened their doors following the coronavirus-related shutdown.

Calvin Ayre reports that the casinos don’t expect business to be back to normal for many months to come.

On Monday, four more Macau casinos resumed their gaming operations, making 33 of the gaming hub’s 39 casinos that have launched phased re-openings, following the end of the government-ordered 15-day shutdown last Thursday.

GGR Asia quoted Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau saying Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s Altira Macau, the Grand Dragon Casino on Taipa, the Waldo Hotel and Hotel President had all resumed gaming operations on Monday.

Sands China’s Sands Cotai Central is expected to open its gaming floors on Thursday.

As a condition of re-opening, the DICJ imposed new restrictions on casino operations, including requiring all guests and casino staff to wear face masks, limiting the number of players at a gaming table and not allowing “standing bets”.

However, the DICJ’s head of inspection Joe Vong said Sunday that the regulator had received complaints from both staff and the public regarding some casinos allowing a high concentration of players at tables.

Vong reminded operators of the DICJ’s guidelines and warned that inspections were being conducted daily to ensure compliance.

Other complaints involved one unidentified casino concessionaire who failed to provide staff with masks, but Vong said the situation had been resolved following the DICJ’s intervention.

Another complaint involved a casino that failed to disinfect its gaming chips, which Vong said was due to a shortage of cleaning supplies, but that has since been remedied.

Regardless of the forward progress, analysts expect February’s gross gaming revenue to fall as much as 90 per cent year-on-year, while the decline for March could fall by 80 per cent if Beijing opts not to lift the current restrictions on individual visit schemes and group visas to Macau.

It seems unlikely that Beijing will do much to alter the status quo given that official figures released by China on Monday indicated 409 new coronavirus cases and 150 new deaths – up from around 100 per day over the past few days – bringing the death total in China to nearly 2,600.

Worse, the recent spread of the virus to other Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan and South Korea will further reduce the flow of gamblers to the world’s largest gambling hub.

Shares in Macau casinos dip

Shares of Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Melco Resorts & Entertainment all fell more than 10 per cent at the open last Monday and traded down more than five per cent throughout the afternoon.

Nasdaq reported in January that all three companies have significant exposure to Macau, a casino hotbed that is feeling the brunt of China’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In the middle of China’s Lunar New Year, this time is traditionally a time of increased travel and crowds at Macau’s casinos.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau reportedly fell by 80 per cent on Sunday, compared to the equivalent day of last year’s holiday, and for the first three days of the holiday, arrivals are down more than 60 per cent.

The coronavirus, which is so far blamed for more than 80 deaths, and China’s efforts to contain it spooked markets on Monday, with the S&P 500 down more than 1.2 per cent and a number of travel stocks off by considerably more.

The Macau casinos went into 2020 hoping that a strong Lunar New Year holiday would start them on a positive trajectory after a difficult 2019, but the outbreak has all but ruined those hopes.

Overall, Macau gross gaming revenue fell 3.6 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018, the first annual decline since 2015, according to data provider Trefis.

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