The Macau government is proposing that the city’s top official can order the ad-hoc closure of casinos in case of an emergency or disaster.
The proposal is part of an overhaul of Macau’s civil protection system, following last year’s Typhoon Hato. It is included in a document put to public consultation on Thursday.
Typhoon Hato was the strongest storm to hit Macau in 53 years. It struck the city on August 23, 2017 with wind speeds of 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph), leading to 10 deaths in the city and widespread damage to infrastructure that disrupted the city’s tourism industry for more than a week afterwards.
The day after Typhoon Hato, the Macao Government Tourism Office had reported that nearly half of the 64 Macau hotels it had canvassed were without either power or water or both utilities.
A number of gaming resorts also reported having partially to reduce their operations following the storm. Three gaming venues – casino hotel Legend Palace, casino hotel Broadway Macau and Mocha Inner Harbour, a slot club promoted by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd – had their operations suspended for several days, due to damage caused by the typhoon.
Most of the Macau casino-hotel operators however played down the impact on gaming operations of the unusually ferocious storm.
The government proposal announced on Thursday would allow a serving Macau chief executive to order the suspension or cancellation of casino operations if a venue was either in a part of the city deemed unsafe; or if members of the public might otherwise be put at risk were operations to continue .
Some casino worker groups have been calling for the city’s casino employees to be exempted from work when Typhoon Signal No.8 or above is hoisted by the local weather bureau. Many public service workers are excused workplace attendance in those circumstances.
The document does not include specific criteria to assess whether a particular casino operation should be suspended or cancelled. Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, stated during a press conference on Thursday that those criteria would be defined at a later stage, public broadcaster Radio Macau reported.
The public consultation on the proposal goes on until August 11, inclusive.
Macau’s gaming law requires casinos to be opened daily. But it allows operators to suspend operations in “exceptional” situations, upon government approval. Such approval can be waived in the face of a disaster, serious accident or situations that pose a risk to public safety; in those cases, operators should inform the government of the suspension as soon as possible.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China