Macau Casinos Dealt Blow With Hong Kong “Health Passport” Delay

  • A “health passport” would allow visitors between Hong Kong and Macau to avoid quarantine
  • Hong Kong officials have delayed this passport as it needs to be reviewed further
  • Macau’s economy is massively reliant on the casino and tourism industries
  • Visitors were down from nearly 4 million people in May 2019 to 16,133 people in May 2020
Macau skyline at dusk
A “health passport” which would allow more efficient travel between Macau and Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic has been delayed. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The latest setback

Casinos in Macau will not be benefiting from a “health passport” between the peninsula and Hong Kong just yet. When implemented, the agreement would allow people to go between the two regions in a much more seamless manner. 

officials say that they need more time to review the health safety card system

The two Chinese Special Administrative Regions (SARs) have been trying to develop this arrangement to ensure that people entering each region are not infected with COVID-19. Currently, anyone traveling to one of the SARs has to go through a two-week quarantine upon arrival. 

The delay comes as Hong Kong officials say that they need more time to review the health safety card system.  

A struggling economy

Macau’s economy is heavily reliant on the casino industry to generate revenue, so this latest delay will not help matters. About 90% of Macau’s tax revenue comes from casinos. Naturally, the city has been hit hard during the pandemic as visitor numbers have sharply decreased. 

To date, there have been 46 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Macau with no deaths. After not having any new cases for almost 80 days, the island reported its first new case in late June. 

In May, there were just 16,133 visitor arrivals, compared to almost 4 million in May 2019.

The only people allowed to enter Macau currently are those from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, and they must quarantine for two weeks after arriving. In May, there were just 16,133 visitor arrivals, compared to almost 4 million in May 2019.

Hotel occupancy for the month was only 12.3% versus 90.4% for the same period last year. Gross gaming revenue has also plummeted, with June’s figure at only $90m, representing a drop of 97% year-on-year. 

Daily cash burn

Macau casinos had to close for a 15-day period in February and have been struggling ever since. The second quarter of 2020 is set to be the worst quarter on record for the island’s gaming revenue. 

The facilities are still dealing with operating costs despite the lack of visitors. Sands China, the Chinese subsidiary for Las Vegas Sands, is burning through $4.3m per day, the most of any casino operator.

Job losses are expected in Macau’s casino sector because of the pandemic.