Melco sets up fund to help coronavirus fight

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Macau could face multi billion dollar deficit

Coronavirus has severely and temporarily crippled Macau, but there have been some benefits to come of it as a result.

Calvin Ayre reports 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 sizeable 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.

The gaming industry has provided a lot of support to help Macau recover as quickly as possible.

The government has stepped up as well, announcing last week several new tax breaks and financial support measurements that are designed to soften the blow from any economic losses local business will incur.

It is also giving each city resident an “electronic consumption voucher: worth $374 that can be exchanged in restaurants, retail stores and more.

The vouchers have to be used within three months.

Shares in Macau casinos dip

Shares of Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Melco Resorts & Entertainment all fell more than 10 per cent at the open last Monday and traded down more than five per cent throughout the afternoon.

Nasdaq reported that all three companies have significant exposure to Macau, a casino hotbed that is feeling the brunt of China’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In the middle of China’s Lunar New Year, this time is traditionally a time of increased travel and crowds at Macau’s casinos.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau reportedly fell by 80 per cent on Sunday, compared to the equivalent day of last year’s holiday, and for the first three days of the holiday, arrivals are down more than 60 per cent.

The coronavirus, which is so far blamed for more than 80 deaths, and China’s efforts to contain it spooked markets on Monday, with the S&P 500 down more than 1.2 per cent and a number of travel stocks off by considerably more.

The Macau casinos went into 2020 hoping that a strong Lunar New Year holiday would start them on a positive trajectory after a difficult 2019, but the outbreak has all but ruined those hopes.

Overall, Macau gross gaming revenue fell 3.6 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018, the first annual decline since 2015, according to data provider Trefis.

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