Published: Wed, February 05, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

Macau to close casinos for two weeks over virus

Macau to close casinos for two weeks over virus

The only other time Macau has closed its casinos was in 2018, when a typhoon hit the city, which was featured in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

On Tuesday, Macau's officials have called for the closure of the special administration region's casino industry.

Ten cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Macau to date. Today, the health authorities revealed two other cases of fresh infection, one of which is a woman working in the local gambling sector.

The disorder, which began in Wuhan, China, has generated 427 deaths globally, with the newest reported Tuesday early in Hong Kong.

While the full impact of the unprecedented closures is still hard to predict, according to JP Morgan's DS Kim, Derek Choi and Jeremy An, early estimates paint an unsurprisingly bleak picture with the analysts noting that casinos are a "revenue business" and there "isn't much that operators can do to mitigate such extreme declines in revenue".

It follows seven confirmed outbreaks in Macau of the new 2019-nCoV Coronavirus, a strain similar to the SARS virus that claimed hundreds of lives a decade and a half ago.

He said he would meet gaming industry representatives on Tuesday afternoon and announce precise timings soon after.

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Gambling has been permitted in Macau since the 1850s when it was legalised by the Portugese government.

Considering the annual gaming revenue in Macau amounts to £29.2 billion, a closure of just two weeks would amass to an estimated loss of £1.12 billion.

The entire region had already almost been shut for travel, depriving Macau of tourists and wealthy gamblers. A large percentage of these visitors were from mainland China.

"Daily online gambling is up 90% over the Lunar New Year holiday compared to last year".
The number of visitors dropped by up to a whopping 80 percent in the first few weeks of the year, a situation that has turned the very vibrant region into some sort of ghost city.

Ho is well aware of the economic impact the casino closures will have, but the priority is not to curtail the spreading of the deadly virus. But Ho said that he was prepared to close some checkpoints. It's coming after a dismal year weighed down by the trade war, Hong Kong protests and slowing Chinese economy.

Residents have been instructed to wear masks when traveling around the city and been advised to stay home as much as possible.

Macau has told citizens not to go outside on any occasions except for food and to always wear protective masks. "Don't be careless. Don't take it lightly".

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