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Macau Casinos Will Reopen On Saturday Morning

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Hotels and casinos in Macau will be able to reopen at midnight Saturday local time.
  • Macau’s casino shutdown was extended for five days on top of a previously announced closure. It was originally set for a week to help mitigate a persistent COVID-19 outbreak in the Asian gambling epicenter.
  • Gaming revenue accounts for 80% of the city’s income and they’ve not recovered fully since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some much needed good news for Macau’s beleaguered gaming industry came across the wire this afternoon. The word from the Macau Government Tourism Office is that hotels and casinos will be able to reopen just after midnight on Saturday. They have been closed since July 11 in an effort to mitigate a COVID-19 outbreak on the island.

Based on the raw metrics, the situation isn’t any worse in China or the special administrative regions of Macau and Hong Kong than in many other countries. The mainland is back down to essentially zero new cases daily per 100,000 people in data reported by the Global Epidemics website:

Daily new COVID-19 cases per 100k people in mainland China

The situation isn’t quite as rosy in Hong Kong. They’re reporting 40.6 new cases daily per 100k people ranking them #36 in the world just ahead of the United States with 40.2 new cases daily:

Daily new COVID-19 cases per 100k people in Hong Kong

Macau is at 1.7 new cases per 100k daily:

The bigger issue is China’s approach to dealing with the virus. Most countries have reached the point where they’re trying to live with the virus as they would any other endemic disease. For the most part life has returned to some semblance of normalcy in most Western nations. China, by contrast, is pursuing what has been described as a ‘COVID-zero’ policy. The crux of their strategy is to isolate every infected person instead of taking measures against a wide spread. An article from BBC.com explains:

While the rest of the world is trying to live with Covid, China is the only major economy still prioritising the fight against the virus above almost everything else.

So-called zero Covid measures involve mass testing, tracking and strict isolation. Just a handful of cases can spark a city-wide lockdown.

Beijing has had only a few infections recently but its more than 21 million residents are required to queue for PCR tests every three days to access public buildings and even corner shops.

When a Covid case is confirmed, a whole suburb can be swiftly cordoned off. It’s been especially hard for businesses – shops, bars and restaurants can be seen pulling down shutters for good.

Everyone in China is living under a cloud of uncertainty. It’s difficult to make plans, and it makes one wonder how much longer people will put up with this.

The Chinese government isn’t exactly open to alternate viewpoints, so most of the country’s medical professionals and party supplicants are ‘playing along’. Internationally, there’s a lot of skepticism about the feasibility of the ‘COVID-zero’ scheme. In fact, there’s a good deal of legitimate opinion that it’s not a good idea at all. Given the current situation in Macau’s gaming ecosystem, the US companies that operate there aren’t in much of a position to gripe either:

The US companies that own properties on the island–Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands–are in a precarious position as well. The government of Macau is in the process of renewing casino licenses by the end of the year. The US companies have had ‘no comment’ since they don’t want to any renewal issues caused by taking exception with the closure. Better eat the losses in the short term than to not have their licenses renewed altogether.

The three Las Vegas based companies confirmed the reopening news though there are a few limitations. They can be staffed with just half the normal number of employees and must used a centralize location for employee meal breaks. Here’s the English text announcing the reopening posted on the Macau Tourism website earlier today:

Most non-essential industries and commercial companies and venues in Macao will be able to resume limited operation from after the stroke of midnight on Saturday (23 July) until the stroke of midnight on 30 July 2022, on the basis of compliance with anti-epidemic guidelines issued by local health authorities.

Premises still suspended from operation include nurseries for children; shops inside a shopping mall and which do not have individual access to a public road; and interior decoration companies, according to Executive Order No. 123/2022 published today. The three categories of activity deemed essential to the community and to the day-to-day lives of the members of the public will continue their normal operation.

The suspension of non-essential industrial and commercial activities in place from 11 to 22 July inclusive has been effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the community and in reducing the risk of new outbreak.

From 23 to 29 July inclusive, the following companies, entities and venues will be allowed normal operation:

1. Companies providing basic public services, i.e., suppliers of water, electricity, natural gas, and other fuel; telecommunication services; public transport; and waste collection. Also in this category are commercial services necessary to the functioning of the community, namely hotel and associated accommodation; cleaning services; property management; and companies and entities responsible for wholesaling or transporting day-to-day produce and goods.

2. Services deemed necessary for the daily lives of the members of the public, namely wet markets, supermarkets, restaurants, food and beverage establishments, pharmacies, and healthcare services.

3. Those companies, entities, and venues that have received approval to continue operations from their respective supervising authorities.

I’m assuming that casinos fall under the ‘associated accommodation’ of hotels. All of the reopening businesses are required to limit the number of customers and enforce social distancing. They must also scan the venue QR code so it’ll link to their Macau Health Code information.

Although the news of the reopening is a positive, it’s unlikely to provide much of a boost to gaming revenues in the short term. There’s still a ‘stay at home’ order that doesn’t include visits to the casino. Furthermore, the tourists that *can* get to Macau won’t find much in the way of hospitality amenities available to them:

In addition, the Executive Order instructs that all individuals continue to stay at home, unless their outings are necessary, i.e., for work in businesses, for grocery shopping, or in event of emergency. When outside, members of the public must not form crowds and must wear a face mask, according to the Executive Order. Adults must wear either a KN95 face mask, or a face mask above such standard; minors may wear any form of protective face mask.

According to an earlier order (Executive Order No. 102/2022), a number of leisure facilities remain closed with effect from 23 June 2022. They are: cinemas, theatres, indoor amusement parks, game centres, cybercafes, billiard rooms, bowling centres, saunas, massage parlours, beauty salons, gyms, health clubs, karaoke lounges, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, dance parlours, cabaret venues, and swimming pools ordinarily open to the public.

Also from 23 June, dine-in services, either at restaurants or other food and beverage establishments, have been suspended. Takeaway food and drink services are not covered by the order.

Presumably, the situation will be revisited prior to July 29 though that date will be irrelevant if government officials think that the situation is becoming more problematic.

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