Macau Casinos to Remain Open Amid Local COVID-19 Infections

Posted on: August 4, 2021, 10:39h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2021, 10:16h.

Macau casinos will remain open despite the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) recently confirming four new COVID-19 cases.

Macau casinos China COVID-19 coronavirus
Residents in Macau stand in a long line on August 4, 2021, waiting to receive their government-required COVID-19 test. Casinos in the region remain open for the time being. (Image: South China Morning Post)

The six licensed commercial casino operators in the region were dealt more bad news yesterday. Macau said it confirmed its first new local coronavirus cases in 500 days. A family of four is infected with COVID-19, health officials blaming an adult-aged daughter for contracting the virus while traveling from Macau to the Guangdong province last month.

Casinos are eagerly awaiting fewer entry restrictions for inbound travelers. Macau’s economic recovery will not begin in earnest until heavier traffic from mainland China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in Asia is realized.

The new COVID-19 cases prompted Macau to initiate a region-wide mass testing initiative. All 600,000 residents in Macau are required to undergo a nucleic acid test by Sunday. The region has established 41 testing sites, which will operate around the clock.

Casinos Carry On

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said this morning that gaming operations will not be immediately impacted by the coronavirus concerns. While many entertainment venues, including movie theaters, concert venues, bowling alleys, gyms and health clubs, spas, karaoke joints, and bars and nightclubs, are being shuttered, casinos are not.

The government does not have plans to close casinos because the problem did not happen there,” Ho explained. “This is a scenario different from the last closure, when two casino employees were confirmed with infection, hence the government decided to suspend at that time the casinos for 15 days.”

Ho was referencing the government’s decision to temporarily close all casinos for 15 days in February of 2020. “If we find any cases in a casino, we will close that casino immediately,” Ho added. 

Macau’s economy cannot grow without its casinos. The world’s richest gaming market accounts for about 80 percent of the SAR’s tax revenue, and is responsible for employing a quarter of the region’s population.

Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong has projected that the six casino operators will win roughly $16.2 billion from gamblers this year. That’s down from the $36.5 billion the gaming industry generated in 2019. 

If the $16.2 billion gaming revenue mark is not achieved, Ho said the government will revise its spending plan. 

Two-Week Goal

Ho in his remarks tried to ease public concerns regarding the new cases. The chief executive said the mitigation efforts will result in Macau getting back to some sort of normalcy within 14 days. 

Skepticism is perhaps warranted. 

In the US, Americans were told in March of 2020 that severe mitigation efforts, such as staying at home and avoiding all nonessential trips, would result in a so-called “flattening of the curve” in just two weeks. The efforts, of course, didn’t slow the spread, and the US instead experienced a vast swelling of the coronavirus throughout 2020. 

Macau, however, has the benefit of being a small isolated region with the ability to open and close its borders as it wishes.