Macau Gaming Regulator Conducts Casino Storm Threat Drills as Typhoon Season Looms

Posted on: July 5, 2019, 04:34h. 

Last updated on: July 5, 2019, 11:58h.

Macau’s gaming regulator, DCIJ, has conducted typhoon-response exercises with each of the gambling hub’s six big licensees in an effort to gauge the industry’s readiness for the approaching tropical storm season.

Macau Typhoon
A street scene in Macau as Typhoon Hato battered the enclave. It was the most powerful storm to hit the region since 1968 and largely blindsided the authorities and the gambling industry. (Image: YouTube)

The news follows a forecast last month by Macau’s Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (MGB) that the region is likely to experience four to six major storms this year.

The industry was found to be woefully unprepared for Typhoon Hato, a maximum category-10 typhoon that battered the gambling hub in 2017 at peak vacation season. It was the worst storm to hit the region in 60 years.

Ten people were killed in Macau and hundreds more injured as high winds caused severe flooding that led to power outages and telecommunications interruptions. Hato severely disrupted the casino and hotel sectors, inflicting an estimated $1.4 billion in direct and indirect economic damage on the gambling hub.

It wasn’t only the casino industry at fault. The MGB failed to predict the severity of the storm until it was too late, and authorities were heavily criticized for their unpreparedness for the disaster relief effort.

Casino Shutdown

The DCIJ said the recent drills were related to the testing of communication lines and response times between government agencies and casinos, as well as the suspension and resumption of gaming operations at live gaming tables.

The procedures enabled the supervisory and casino staff of the Bureau to “effectively review the overall operational procedures, harmonize operational guidelines and improve them,” said the regulator.

In September last year, authorities were determined not to make the same mistakes as another super-typhoon approached the gambling hub, Typhoon Mangkhut. For the first time in its history, the Macau gaming sector was ordered to temporarily suspend its operations.

All 42 of the enclave’s casinos shut down for a 72-hour period, as Mangkhut made landfall in China’s Guangdong Province on September 16, about 40 miles from the gambling hub.

Previously, it had laid waste to areas of the northern Philippines, killing at least 127 people. But Macau was spared any casualties, as the storm passed at a greater distance from the enclave than Hato had — although 17 people were reported injured.

Coastal Casinos at Risk

Nevertheless, Mangkhut brought flooding to low-lying areas, forcing the evacuation of around 1,300 people, while 20,000 households were left without power. Macau is the most densely populated region in the world.

At a DCIJ consultation last month, the regulator was particularly eager to hear about the contingency plans of casino properties in low-lying areas, such as the waterfront casinos Ponte-16 and Legend Place, which were severely disrupted by flooding after Hato. Legend Palace was closed for around four weeks.

Typhoon season typically falls between July and September, reaching its peak in August, although storms can develop at any time of year. The MGB said the predicted storms could develop any time from now until October.