Macau Casinos Closing for Two Weeks Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Ten coronavirus cases confirmed on the island to date
  • Closure order prioritizes people's safety over gambling revenue
  • Initial two-week period may be extended if threat of virus spread grows
  • The border to and from mainland China not yet closed
doctor holds blood sample for coronavirus testing
Casinos in Macau will be temporarily closed to the public for two weeks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus on the island. [Image:]

A worrying time in Macau

The authorities in Macau have ordered the temporary closure of casinos until the spread of the coronavirus has been contained. 

after the period elapses, the time could be extended

Wearing a face mask, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng gave the order for an initial two-week closure at a news conference on Tuesday. If there are continuing issues with the virus spread on the island after the period elapses, the time could be extended.

Ho Iat Seng said, “This is a difficult decision but we have to do it, for the health of our Macau residents.”

Ten cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Macau to date. Two new cases were announced on Tuesday; one involves a woman employed within the gaming sector. The coronavirus has caused the death of more than 400 people in China after tens of thousands of people contracted it. More than 20 different nations across the globe have confirmed local cases of the virus so far.

Reopening plans to be discussed

The exact timings for the reopening of casinos have not been announced. However, the Chief Executive will be meeting with representatives of the gaming industry on Tuesday to discuss plans. 

The closure order marks the second time in history that the Macau authorities have been forced to shut casinos. The first occurrence was in 2018 after the island was hit by a typhoon. 

The economy will be hit hard

Macau is the only part of the Chinese territory that allows gambling. The island’s annual income is fueled by gambling sources, which account for approximately 80% of all revenue. 

35 million visitors came to gamble at Asia’s massive tourist hub in 2019. A large percentage of these visitors were from mainland China. Macau is the leading gambling destination in the world, with its weekly casino intakes equating to the monthly figures reached by Las Vegas establishments.

Chinese New Year celebrations, which normally spell a busy time for Macau, were canceled last week by Chief Executive Ho amid coronavirus concerns. The level of visitors to the island dropped by 80% over the past week. 

visitors to the island dropped by 80% over the past week

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. He added that, while there will be a fiscal deficit and a loss of gaming revenue for the fiscal year, there are enough tax reserves to help support the island’s economy.

Ho issues further warnings

Ho had previously hinted that temporary closures of casinos could be in the cards. The gambling facilities have been monitoring their patrons’ temperatures over the past few days to try and identify potential dangers. 

The Chief Executive confirmed there are no plans to close the passage of people to and from mainland China. However, he did say that some of the checkpoints might be closed. This measure has already been enacted in Hong Kong. 

He advised Macau residents to avoid going outdoors as much as possible, warning, “Don’t go on the streets if not necessary. I hope everyone will wear a mask no matter where you go, supermarkets or wet markets. Don’t be careless. Don’t take it lightly.”

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