As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world the Chinese authorities have shut down the world’s largest gambling hub Macau as they desperately try to contain the disease. The radical measures came as 10 cases of the killer virus were confirmed in Macau that has led to the imposed tight restrictions on movements.
The Chinese gambling enclave of Macau announced it has shuttered its 41 casinos amid the coronavirus outbreak for two weeks as a precaution.
Ho Iat Seng, the chief executive of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, said: “Of course this was a difficult decision, but we must do it for the health of Macau’s residents.”
The territory is a big money maker for US casino operators Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp who have just reported a strong end of year financial result in their USA properties. The shutdown in Macau will put ongoing revenue increases at significant risk in what was hoped to be a strong quarter.
Tourism accounts for 28 per cent of Macau’s GDP, but its casinos remained eerily empty over the Lunar New Year holiday as visits plunged almost 80 per cent, year on year. Las Vegas Sands chief executive Sheldon Adelson likened the once bustling Cotai complexes to “operating rooms”, reported Bloomberg. “Everybody’s got masks,” he told investors on a call.
After 10 people in Macau fell ill, including a hotel employee at Galaxy Casino, authorities sprang into action, but it is estimated that closing Macau’s casinos would be six times worse than shutting down the Las Vegas Strip. According to 2018 revenue numbers, Macau generated $37.9 billion, while Las Vegas brought in $6.6 billion. The shutdown could result in Macau losing 5 to 15 percent of their annual gaming revenue for the 2020 financial year
A cease in operations for 15 days is bad for business but is also hard for the thousands of casino employees. Alvin Chau, chairman of Suncity Group, promised his employees that the shutdown will not affect their salaries or benefits.
In a memo he released to all company workers, Alvin reassured his employees that he will not be demanding they take unpaid leave, or reducing salaries. The 15-day mandatory leave will be treated as a “special paid vacation”, and that it will not affect the employees’ vacation accrual for the year.
In addition to closing casinos, Macau has also closed down most of its borders with mainland China. All sea links between Macau and Hong Kong are suspended.
The first death outside of China was reported on Sunday — a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in the Philippines after travelling there from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.
The death toll in China rose today by a new daily record to more than 910 and total infections in China has increased to 40,553
There were at least 151 cases in 23 other countries and regions, including the United States, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia and Britain.