COVID-19 Increase on Mainland Hurts Macau Gaming, Cancels Chinese New Year Bookings

Posted on: January 26, 2021, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: January 26, 2021, 11:34h.

A surge in COVID-19 cases on the mainland has hurt gaming revenue in Macau, just as the world’s richest gaming enclave was starting to see recovery.

Macau gaming revenue Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year celebration, seen here in 2015, will not be the typical celebration that it normally is in Macau. The gambling hub is tightening its borders and forcing quarantines on many mainlanders because of an uptick in new coronavirus cases. (Image: Getty)

Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein reported yesterday that daily gross gaming revenue (GGR) over the first 17 days of the new year averaged approximately MOP276 million (US$34.6 million).

That was before China confirmed an escalating number of new coronavirus cases. The People’s Republic has seen its seven-day average number of positive test results jump from less than 10 last fall to as high as 144 new infections this month.

The swelling case counts resulted in Macau — a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic — tightening its borders. The enclave has reimplemented quarantine requirements for people arriving from two cities and four provinces.

GGR has slowed since the case surge. Bernstein says the average casino win from January 18-24 was MOP171 million ($21.4 million).

New Year, Same Problems

The Chinese New Year will run from February 12 through February 22. The celebration honors the beginning of a new year, according to the traditional Chinese calendar.

Also referred to as the Spring Festival, the New Year is one of the most important holidays in China. It’s also a time when many mainlanders, afforded paid time off from their jobs, opt to travel.

Macau is always a popular destination. But the rapidly spreading COVID-19 has many concerned, including the all-important VIPs. The mainland government has also urged residents to avoid travel in the coming weeks until the vaccine is more widely distributed.

The travel impediments will lead to reduced visitation into Macau for the next few weeks at least, with Chinese New Year visitation being impacted,” forecasted Bernstein analysts Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu, and Kelsey Zhu.

Gaming analysts at Credit Suisse report reduced bookings in the mass gaming segment — aka the general public gambler. The financial services firm says difficulties in obtaining visas to visit Macau are one reason. Another is that Macau’s quarantine mandates will turn away many.

People arriving at Macau’s entry gates from Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the provinces of Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Hebei, and Jilin, are subjected to 14 days of medical quarantine in the enclave.

Year of the Ox

According to the Chinese calendar, 2021 is the year of the ox. The ox is a prized animal because of its impact on agriculture.

“Oxen are the hard workers in the background, intelligent and reliable, but never demanding praise,” said Fefe Ho and Chloe Chiao of

This year will certainly take the hard rock to return Macau’s gaming industry, which drives the region’s economy. The consensus among gaming analysts calls for January’s GGR numbers to be down 67 percent compared with January 2019 levels — the last month prior to widespread lockdowns throughout China, as the pandemic hit Asia.