The Macau authorities announced late on Saturday the blanket suspension of operations in the city’s casinos ahead of Typhoon Mangkhut, a storm expected to reach category 10. Casino operations were paused from 11pm on Saturday, according to a release.
It is understood to be the first time in the modern era of public gaming concessions that the city’s casinos were told by the local authorities to suspend their operations.
A government release stated that Macau’s Civil Protection Operations Centre would advise later when the city’s casino operators might resume their respective gaming businesses.
The government said the city-wide suspension of gaming operations aimed to protect the safety of casino employees, visitors, and the city’s residents.
Grant Govertsen, an analyst at brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, said in an emailed response to GGRAsia in the early hours of Sunday regarding the citywide casino closures in response to the adverse weather during the annual typhoon season: “Clearly the government is taking a significantly more cautious approach than before.”
He added, referring latterly to the decision’s likely impact on casino gross gaming revenue (GGR): “While we were surprised to see the ordered closures happen late on September 15, we certainly understand the government is in a tough position and will err to the side of caution. That said, we would expect some negative GGR impact as a result of not only the temporary closures, but also the cessation of transportation into and out of Macau.”
The World Meteorological Organisation has described Mangkhut as the strongest tropical cyclone anywhere in the world so far this year.
Last year during the category 10 Typhoon Hato, the Macau casino industry’s pause was by default – on a venue-by-venue basis – across the local industry, depending on the level of damage each venue experienced, and its respective access to off-grid sources of power and water.
Saturday’s pause in city-wide casino operations was ordered by Macau’s Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On, ahead of Signal No. 8 likely to be hoisted at 2am on Sunday. The city’s border crossings to and from mainland China were to be closed at 1am on Sunday. Ferry services to and from Macau were suspended at 10pm on Saturday.
Saturday’s city-wide suspension of gaming followed debate within the government about the need to have a mechanism for decision-making related to exceptional weather.
Another press release issued earlier on Saturday by the local government indicated there were currently no specific provisions within the legal framework for the city’s casinos allowing for blanket closure of casinos.
A meeting on Wednesday involving several government departments – including the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – indicated that the government would consider the safety of people inside casino resorts before deciding on a citywide suspension of casino business in the event of “typhoon or adverse weather”.
The government said that Macau casino resorts provided from Saturday – without charge – an aggregate of 2,770 parking spaces for private vehicles, in order to fulfil public demand for safe parking during the typhoon period.
Several of the 10 deaths that occurred during Typhoon Hato in August last year happened in underground car park areas.
(Updated Sept 16, 10am)
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"The casinos have to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The decision [to suspend casino operations] is up to the government. As of now, we don’t have any plan to change the existing regulations"
Lei Wai Nong
Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance