As Macau’s COVID-19 situation hits crisis point, authorities have ordered all casinos to shutter across the special administrative region (SAR). The move has caused shares in the casino hub’s gaming firms to tank.
ordered Macau’s 40+ casinos to suspend operations
Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng ordered Macau’s 40+ casinos to suspend operations for one week beginning on Saturday. Only supermarkets, healthcare facilities, and restaurants selling takeaways may operate in the region currently.
Adding to Macau investor uncertainty, neighboring Hong Kong is mulling the adoption of China’s stringent COVID-19 health code system. Hong Kong’s new health minister Lo Chung-mau told RTHK radio on Monday that: “Infected people should not have the freedom to go wherever they want and affect our health.”
Steep drops all round
Shares in all six gaming giants operating in Macau dropped Monday. According to Reuters, Las Vegas Sands subsidiary Sands China suffered the most significant drop, tanking 9%. Shares in Melco International, Wynn Macau, MGM China, and SJM Holdings fell between 6% and 7%.
Despite more than 90% of Macau’s residents having had at least two vaccinations, the SAR has registered 1,526 COVID-19 cases since mid-June, with around 19,000 people now in mandatory quarantine. This is the gambling mecca’s first encounter of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
Casinos are vital to Macau’s economic growth and employment, which is why authorities have permitted them to continue operating while cinemas, bars, and other public places started shuttering in late June.
over 80% of government revenues”
Ho said in the past that closing down all Macau’s casinos “would affect many employees.” According to Reuters, the gambling industry employs most of the population “directly and indirectly and accounts for over 80% of government revenues.”
Even at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 in Macau in February 2020, casinos only closed for 15 days.