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Macau casinos to close for a week starting Monday because of COVID-19 outbreak

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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Macau’s government Saturday ordered the week-long closure of all commercial businesses – including the market’s once-lucrative casino industry – because of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases that began in mid-June.

The planned casino shutdown is the first in Macau since the 15-day closure in February 2020, which took place at the outset of the pandemic. The latest closure ordered by Macau Secretary for Administration and Justice Andrew Cheong Weng Chun begins at midnight on Monday and will last through July 18. 

Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China and the country’s only legal casino market. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts hold three of Macau’s six gaming licenses.

"We will follow the government's direction in their efforts to contain COVID-19 in Macau,” a spokesman for Wynn Resorts said in a statement released Saturday. Wynn operates Wynn Macau, Encore and Wynn Palace.

MGM Resorts, which has two casino-hotels in Macau, declined comment.

A spokesman for Las Vegas Sands said the company would address the situation in Macau when it reports second-quarter earnings in a couple of weeks. Sands is the largest Las Vegas-based casino operator in Macau with five resorts.

China has been operating under a zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy and has ordered mandatory testing of all Macau residents and visitors and quarantines for anyone testing positive. As of Saturday, Macau had 1,374 positive cases of COVID-19 starting in June 18.

According to Seeking Alpha, the Grand Lisboa resort in Macau, which is operated by Hong Kong-based SJM Holdings, is on lockdown due to a cluster of positive COVID cases. Some 500 people are in quarantine at the resort.

Travel restrictions to Macau from Mainland China and other health and safety policies have decimated Macau’s casino market. In June, Macau's gaming revenue of $307 million was the lowest monthly figure since September 2020, when casinos reported $273.9 million.

According to figures released by the government’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau on July 1, Macau saw gaming revenue fall 62.1 percent compared to June 2021 and decline 25.9 percent compared to May 2022.

For the first six months of 2022, Macau's gaming revenue is $3.26 billion, down 46.4 percent from the first six months of 2021.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said last week COVID will continue to be a factor in Macau’s gaming revenue declines until November, when a Chinese government event is planned and some of the health and safety restrictions might be lifted.

“We thus remain cautious in the near term, as the Macau recovery has seen several fits and starts and remains highly sensitive to COVID outbreaks,” Beynon said.

Macau's all-time gaming revenue record was $45 billion in 2013.

Macau casinos collected $10.8 billion in gaming revenue in 2021, an increase of 43.7 percent over the $7.56 billion collected in 2020. The total was still more than 70 percent below pre-pandemic 2019, when casinos in the region produced $36.6 billion.

The gaming revenues produced in 2020 and 2021 are the lowest single-year back-to-back totals since 2006 and 2007.

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