Fresh cases of Covid-19 in Beijing and elsewhere in mainland China were likely to be dealt with quickly and efficiently by the Chinese authorities, an investor in a Macau casino resort has told GGRAsia. And the Macau government added in a Monday briefing it was stepping up checks on any inbound visitors that might have been in the affected parts of the capital.
Hoffman Ma Ho Man (pictured in a file photo), deputy chairman of Hong Kong-listed Success Universe Group Ltd, a backer of Macau’s Ponte 16 resort, also said that provided tourists started to come back to Macau in some numbers – possibly from July – then the property might be able get back to 2019 levels of gaming revenue within the fourth quarter this year. The venue in the city’s Inner Harbour district, operates a casino under the gaming licence of SJM Holdings Ltd.
On Monday Chinese news agency Xinhua said – citing Beijing’s municipal health commission – that China’s capital had reported 36 new confirmed domestically-transmitted Covid-19 cases and six new asymptomatic cases on Sunday.
Also on Monday, China’s Global Times newspaper said three Chinese provinces – Liaoning in the northeast; Hebei in the north; and Sichuan in the southwest – had reported “more Covid-19 cases” among people that had “close contacts” with infection cases in Beijing.
The question of whether the fresh mainland cases might set back the timetable for the return of Macau tourism was raised by local media at Monday’s Covid-19 update press conference by the Macau government. Local officials said that any travellers arriving in Macau that had been in the affected parts of Beijing would be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Currently visitors from mainland China are not generally required to undergo such precautionary measures.
But Mr Ma told GGRAsia the same day: “I think that in [Beijing's] case, the Chinese government has already imposed some aggressive means to deal with the outbreak, and they did so pretty quickly.”
Beijing authorities reportedly shut down several food markets and imposed a lockdown in several residential areas in the city.
Pent up demand
Macau could see an “explosive” rebound in gaming demand from mainland Chinese patrons once the current border control measures enacted in both Macau and China are lifted, probably in stages, Mr Ma stated.
“The reopening of [mainland] borders with Macau remains the biggest uncertainties now. But border crossing conditions will gradually normalise, and by then Macau would see an explosive rebound in [gaming] demand from mainland China, as this demand has been pent up for quite some time already,” he stated.
Currently, travel between Macau and Hong Kong is subject ordinarily to a 14-day quarantine period in each direction. Mainlanders entering Macau have ordinarily no quarantine restrictions, but those wishing to return to the mainland after a visit to Macau are currently subject to a 14-day quarantine requirement.
So far, there is also no clarity on when the mainland authorities would resume issuance and approvals for exit visas under the initiative for better-off mainland travellers, known as the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS). The pausing of the scheme began in late January as China stepped up efforts to contain Covid-19 as it spread beyond the cases initially reported in Wuhan in Hubei province.
“I would expect the border entry restrictions with the cities in Guangdong province to be lifted first, then it would happen to the surrounding provinces of Guangdong,” remarked Mr Ma, referring first to the mainland province next door to Macau. He added that forms of quarantine-free arrangement applicable initially to a limited number of people could come into effect “by July”. The first beneficiaries are likely to be mainly business travellers or officials for trips between respectively Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau
If such an arrangement could be expanded to other groups of travellers from July onward, Macau’s market-wide gaming revenue might, during the month, amount to “50 percent” of that realised during the same month in 2019, Mr Ma said. He added that Ponte 16 – one of the casinos closest to the border with Guangdong’s Zhuhai – might under favourable travel conditions see pre-crisis gaming numbers in the fourth quarter.
“For us, for sure the segment of high-limits play and VIP play will recover faster,” Mr Ma told us.
“Earlier this month, we have already been able to deploy six gaming tables back in the high-limit area on our property’s second floor, which is the same number as pre-Covid 19 outbreak level,” Mr Ma added, “…the minimum bets of these tables range from HKD1,000 (US$129) to HKD5,000.”
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Aggregate number of visitor arrivals to Macau in October