Macau closes most businesses amid COVID outbreak, casinos remain open


HONG KONG, June 20 (Reuters) – Macau, the world’s largest gaming hub, began its second day of mass COVID-19 testing on Monday after dozens of locally transmitted cases were detected over the weekend, with most businesses closed but casinos remaining open.

Testing of Macau’s roughly 600,000 residents is expected to end on Tuesday as the Chinese-ruled former Portuguese colony adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy, which aims to eradicate any outbreaks at all costs.

Most residents are being asked to stay home, restaurants are being closed for dining and border restrictions have been tightened, meaning casino revenue is likely to be close to zero for at least a week and likely for weeks to come, analysts said.

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Macau casino stocks plummeted Monday morning, with Sands China (1928.HK) leading the decline, falling over 8%, its biggest drop since March 15.

MGM China (2282.HK), Wynn Macau (1128.HK), Galaxy Entertainment (0027.HK), Melco (0200.HK) and SJM Holdings (0880.HK) fell between 4% and 7%.

The Macau government relies on casinos for over 80% of its income, with most of the population employed directly or indirectly in the casino industry.

The latest outbreak came suddenly and has spread rapidly, with the source still unknown, Macau chief executive Ho Iat Seng said in a statement on the government website.

People walk in front of Casino Lisboa in Macau, China December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The previous outbreak of the coronavirus in Macau was in October last year. An outbreak in neighboring Chinese territory of Hong Kong this year has seen more than 1 million confirmed infections and more than 9,000 deaths, swamping hospitals and public services.

While Hong Kong has seen a surge to over 1,000 cases a day over the past week, officials said they are unlikely to tighten restrictions further as pressure on medical services has not increased.

Macau has only one public hospital and its services are already overwhelmed on a daily basis. The territory’s swift plan to test its entire population comes as it keeps the border with mainland China open and many residents live and work in the neighboring Chinese city of Zhuhai.

China, on the other hand, has not opened its borders with Hong Kong as the financial center is largely isolated from the mainland and the international world.

The Macau legislature is due this week to approve an amended gambling law that will lay the basis for what will be required of the multi-billion dollar casino operators to continue operating. Continue reading

“Depending on how quickly Macau is able to bring the latest outbreak under control, there is a risk of a delay in completing the gambling law amendments and subsequent concession.”

bidding process,” said Vitaly Umansky, analyst at Sanford C Bernstein.

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Reporting by Farah Master; Edited by Michael Perry and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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