Macau, one of the world’s largest gambling hubs, reopened its casinos today after a 15-day shutdown as part of the preventive measures against the further spreading of the coronavirus. However, reopening day saw an acute shortage of customers as concern about the dangerous virus continues.
The shortage is attributed to flight cancellations and border restrictions, which prevent prospective customers from mainland China from entering the former Portuguese colony. This is a gloomy situation for a city that relies on the gambling industry for as much as 80% of its annual revenue.
As much as 60% of Macau’s non-resident workers also come from mainland China. Meanwhile, the occupancy of hotels and resorts has dropped to 12% this month as opposed to the 90% occupancy registered for the same period during the previous year.
Alidad Tash, Managing Director of the gaming company 2NT8 Limited, was one of the few people to make it to the Venetian and Galaxy Macau, the region’s biggest gambling venues. Mr. Tash entered the venues this morning only to find there were more tables than gamblers on the premises.
Only a few dozens of players had made it to the fifty or so tables that opened to the public. Mr. Tash explained only 400 to 500 tables were opened prior to the official casinos’ closure as fear of the epidemic spread over Asia’s gambling capital.
Casinos Expected to Recover in Q4 of 2020
Mr. Tash predicts local gambling operators will recover from the impact of the virus and register positive results revenue-wise in the fourth quarter of the year. Meanwhile, the operators report they are spending $1.5 million to $2.6 million each day just to keep their employees on payroll and meet their contractual obligations. The epidemic is also expected to delay the opening of new gambling properties by several months, including those of SJM’s Grand Lisboa Palace and Sand’s Londoner Macau.
Things were not much different in other casinos across the Cotai Strip whose floors were populated mostly by the dealers and other staff members, with a dozen or so gamblers venturing to make it to the premises. The strict conditions gambling operators must comply with after the reopening further contribute to the shortage of customers.
Residents of the Hubei province in mainland China, where the outbreak first began, are altogether prohibited from entering Macau. As Casino Games Pro reported yesterday, the staff in the gambling venues is expected to follow strict rules after the reopening as a precaution against the spreading of the virus.
The guidelines of the local Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau require dealers at the tables to wear face masks and gloves. It is prohibited for standers-by to place bets. Agglomerations are also disallowed. Players should comply with minimum distance requirements.
Some of the slot machines on the casinos’ premises have also been deactivated to allow players to keep a safe distance between each other. These restrictions are in force despite the fact Macau has seen no new cases of the virus for sixteen days in a row.