Tue, Mar 3, 9:19am by Charlotte Lee
Macau casinos reported gaming revenue falling nearly 90 per cent in February after local authorities ordered a two-week shut down of operations due to the coronavirus.
Calvin Ayre reports the figures released Sunday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported that local casinos had generated revenue of just US$386.6 million in February, a drop of 87.8 per cent from the same month last year, the largest monthly decline on record.
For the first two months of 2020, gaming revenue is down by nearly half.
The special administration of China ordered its casinos to shut their doors for 15 days starting February 4 as the Covid-19 outbreak continued spreading out of its ground zero in Hubei province.
China restricted the number of individual scheme permits and tour groups to Macau, while Macau’s government mulled shutting its borders entirely to limit its potential exposure to Covid-19.
Following the conclusion of that shutdown, Macau casinos began phased re-openings and the DICJ said Friday that only two casinos – Casino Taipa at the Regency Art Hotel and the Casino Macau Jockey Club in the Macau Roosevelt Hotel – had yet to resume operations.
Operators were allowed to open only if they agreed to follow certain restrictions aimed at limiting further spread of the virus, including maintaining empty seats between players at gaming tables and electronic gaming machines, not allowing ‘standing’ bets and requiring all guests and staff to wear face masks until March 22.
Macau’s January revenue fell 11.3 per cent year-on-year after China’s travel restrictions began taking effect in the final 10 days of the month.
The disruption over the past two months robbed casinos of their annual windfall from the Lunar New Year holiday.
Casino operators took a major financial hit from February’s shutdown, with many operators citing daily expenses of $2.5 to $3 million, primarily from the costs of paying staff.
With the Covid-19 crisis far from over and other Asia-Pacific countries affected by the virus restricting their own citizens’ ability to travel, the long-term impact on operators’ bottom lines remains anyone’s guess.
— jeroen blokland (@jsblokland) March 1, 2020
Coronavirus has severely and temporarily crippled Macau, but there have been some benefits to come of it as a result.
Calvin Ayre reported last month that a new fund has been created by Melco Resorts and Entertainment, designed to provide assistance to all employees in need, not just those working for the company.
The project is being established by the gambling operator in conjunction with the Macau Federation of Trade Unions, and will see MOP$5 million (US$624,000) be destined for employee aid.
This sizable contribution to employees’ wellbeing comes on the heels of another project launched by Melco that designated $2.6 million to Macau’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus.
The Special Aid Fund, as it has been designated, will primarily offer support to those who now have unstable income or who have been impacted greatly by the outbreak.
The president of the FAOM, Lee Chong Cheng, says of the new agreement, “Currently, many workers are faced with reduced income as a result of the coronavirus and are in dire need of assistance to combat increased pressures on their livelihood.
“In response, Melco and the Macau Federation of Trade Unions have set up the Special Aid Fund for Workers in Need with the objective to help affected families.”
The Special Aid Fund will be available to individuals such as tour guides, taxi drivers and others, and the company will work closely with the FAOM to ensure the money is properly used; however, the workers union will ultimately handle the payouts.
Melco’s chairman and chief executive officer Lawrence Ho added when announcing the new financial contribution: “Melco stands hand in hand with the local community through these particularly difficult times.
“Our thoughts and concerns go to those families and persons affected by recent events, and we are grateful for the help of Macau Federation of Trade Unions for working with us and the community to fight against the virus.
“We will continue to work closely with the government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues, as well as their families and the community.
“We will do everything in our power to continue supporting those in need,” Mr Ho said.
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