Macau Casinos Win $659M in March, Represents 80 Percent Decline From 2019

Posted on: April 1, 2020, 09:07h. 

Last updated on: April 1, 2020, 10:31h.

Macau casinos won $659 million on their gaming floors in March, a nearly 80 percent decline compared to the same month in 2019.

Macau casinos coronavirus COVID-19
Macau casinos reported gaming win of $659 million in March, a severe drop because of the current pandemic. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty)

The Special Administrative Region (SAR) remains on lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March, Macau officials announced a ban on incoming travelers from everywhere except mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. It later said anyone from those three areas who had traveled elsewhere would also be denied entry.

As a result, traffic inside casinos remains extremely light. The same floors that reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) in March 2019 of $3.23 billion saw their win decline by $2.57 billion.

Year to date, Macau GGR stands at $3.82 billion – a 60 percent reduction.

Visitation Limited

The coronavirus crisis has kept tens of millions of people at home, whether under government-ordered mandates or recommendations from health officials to avoid all non-essential outside activity.

The Macau Public Security Police said 230 outsiders ventured into the enclave on Sunday, and 270 on Monday. Prior to the pandemic, average daily visitor arrivals totaled around 108,000 per 24-hour period.

The Macau Statistics and Census Service said 39.4 million people arrived in the SAR last year. That was an all-time high, and its fifth consecutive year breaking its previous record.

Despite the visitor growth, Macau’s six licensed casino operators collectively won $36.45 billion in 2019, a decline of 3.4 percent. Enclave officials are trying to diversify the region’s economy, pivoting from the high-roller to more of the mass market.

Social Not Commercial

GGRAsia, an online media outlet focused on Asian gaming industries, said this week that Macau casinos are currently operating not as commercial ventures, but social enterprises. The goal, a consultant said, is to keep workers employed.

“With the mainlanders and Hong Kongers now effectively barred from entering Macau, the only rationale possible for keeping the casinos in Macau open right now is a social one, which is to keep Macau residents employed,” said Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management and Consulting.

Casinos are Macau’s backbone, gaming revenue generating almost 90 percent of the enclave’s taxes.

Prior to COVID-19, more than 20 people could be on one table betting for hours. Now, most casinos have imposed limits of three seats per table, with no standing players. We think the habit of increasing social distance may continue for some time even after COVID-19 is contained,” gaming analysts at Morgan Stanley said.

Macau’s casinos employed 108,000 people as of last summer, and unemployment stood at just 1.7 percent. The gaming operators were amid a hiring spree to keep up with escalating visitor arrivals, and the expected growth of meetings and convention business.

Now, Macau officials are telling casinos to avoid laying off workers during the economic standstill. “In this difficult period, companies should make every effort to ensure the employment of employees and maintain a stable labor market,” Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau stated.