Macau's gambling hub shuts its venues for two weeks amid coronavirus

Marco Green
February 4, 2020

Needless to say, the nature of the virus seems to imply the outbreak could only get worse if casino operations continue.

The deadly Coronavirus strain that has claimed more than 300 lives in China has had the effect of turning the gambling hotspot of Macau into a ghost-town during its usually busiest holiday season. Macau's gaming industry is worth some $40 billion.

The disease, which started in Wuhan, China, has caused 427 deaths worldwide, with the latest reported Tuesday morning in Hong Kong.

The announcement by Macau's chief executive Ho Iat Seng came as the former Portuguese colony reported 10 confirmed cases of the virus and tight restrictions on movements in and out of the Chinese territory, Reuters reports. Two casino workers fell ill of the virus just on Tuesday. "Don't be careless. Don't take it lightly". The Inside Asia Gaming trade publication described the move as a "bombshell".

A second press conference is scheduled to be held later in the afternoon, supplying additional details of how and if the closures will take place. Closing the hotels as well as the gaming facilities would be a massive upheaval.

Gross revenues from Macau's casinos are estimated to be four times greater than those of Las Vegas.

Some 35 million people visited the densely crowded city of just 631,000 people past year, the vast majority mainland Chinese heading to the casinos, which rake in each week what Las Vegas takes in a month.

Angela Han Lee, an equity analyst with China Renaissance Securities HK, also noted the Macau casino operators are willing to bear some of the fixed costs and expenses instead of passing all that burden to their staff members. But visitor numbers were down by roughly 80percent a week, the generally active Chinese New Year holiday period, as mainland Chinese citizens found it more challenging to travel and depart permits were limited. A large percentage of these visitors were from mainland China.

Macau a partner and competitor with Las Vegas, has many USA run resorts and casinos, including the MGM and Sands Group. Together they run a total of 6,739 gambling tables and 17,009 slot machines, according to the Macauhub internet site.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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