From the 3rd of March 2021, Macau casino visitors no longer have to produce a negative COVID-19 test result before they gain access. This announcement was made by Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center.
However, the decision to suspend Macau casino visitors from producing negative COVID-19 test results was because, for the past 24 days, mainland China has not recorded any local transmission of the coronavirus.
As good as this may sound, some experts believe that Macau casinos should not lose their guard against the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, it appears this announcement will not affect other measures put in place to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
According to the Chinese government, the total number of visitors to Macau was approximately more than 50 million annually before the pandemic. However, since the pandemic, Macau casino visitors have drastically reduced. For instance, the decline in the number of visitors is estimated at 83.9 percent.
Regarding the gross gaming revenue of Macau in 2020, it fell by 77.4 percent in the first six months. Compared to 2019, Macau’s gross gaming revenue dropped by 95 percent in 2020. No doubt, the widespread pandemic has reduced the demand for land-based gaming activities in Macau. Although most Macau casinos were shut down, interestingly, some operators were still paying their employees in February even after the closure of casinos was announced.
Overview of the Macau Casinos Industry
Macau, in some parlance, is regarded as the world’s casino capital. However, this may not be entirely untrue considering the number of gambling on at Macau casinos. In 2019, Macau generated gross revenue of USD36.7 billion.
Don’t forget, Macau is the only region allowed by the Chinese government to carry out gambling activities. Presently, they are six licensed casino real money operators in Macau, namely:
Galaxy Entertainment Group
MGM China Holdings
Melco Crown Entertainment
Not to mention, Sands China operates the largest casino complex in Macau. It occupies 980,000 square meters and has more than 640 gaming tables. Similarly, their total number of slot machines is 1,760.
Also, most casinos that operate in Macau had VIP rooms where high stake games are played. However, perceiving that money launderers may take advantage of the VIP programs, the China government clamped down on casinos encouraging corruption. China had to jail some executives of some casinos operating in Macau for aiding money laundering.
Preventive Measures and Casino Reopening in Macau
Macau casinos’ temporary closure was lifted on the 20th of February 2021 via executive order by the Macau regional authorities. Since the temporary closure was lifted, about 29 casinos have resumed operations. However, Macau casinos have been instructed to follow certain safety precautions and technical guidelines provided by the Health Bureau and the Gaming and Inspection Coordination Bureau (DICJ). Aside from social distancing and wearing of a nose mask, the other rules casinos must abide by are:
Reduce the capacity by 50 percent to prevent overcrowding. However, this includes the number of employees and patrons
The table dealers and patrons must maintain a one-meter distance apart from while sitting or standing
Suspension of all gaming promotional activities that attract casino players
No consumption of beverage or food at their casino halls
Also, the Chinese government closed the border and ensured strict quarantine measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The Online Gambling Industry in Macau
Although Macau is like the headquarters of casinos’, online gambling is prohibited. The region banned any form of online gambling.
Nonetheless, the only alternative to playing casinos in Macau is engaging in horse racing and sports betting. However, these games are solely offered by the Macau Jockey Club and Macau Slot, respectively.
Furthermore, Macau strictly monitors and regulates the gambling market to avoid any form of online gambling in the region.
The Future of Gambling in Macau
Right now, it will be complicated to predict the future of the gambling industry in Macau. Considering the uncertainty that the pandemic has caused, Macau casinos may not recover fully from their losses.
However, like most gambling industries have done recently, adopting or legalizing online gambling remains the only way to recover quickly. A few months ago, Switzerland lifted the ban on online gambling. Their gross revenue from the gaming industry had declined. More so, the Dutch are also set to legalize online casino gambling soon.
Finally, legalizing online casino gambling in Macau will boost the region’s gross revenue.