Macau’s top official can, since Tuesday (September 15), order the ad-hoc closure of casinos in case of an emergency or disaster. That is following the enactment of the city’s new civil protection legal framework.
The law allows the serving Macau chief executive to order the suspension of casino operations if a venue is deemed vulnerable during a particular emergency.
The law defines emergencies as those likely to put lives at risk, cause severe economic or environmental damage, or threaten public security. Events in that category include natural disasters such as typhoons and floods, but also accidents, public health incidents and social security incidents.
The new framework is part of an overhaul of Macau’s civil protection system, following Typhoon Hato, which struck the city in August 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.
A number of casino resorts reported at the time having partially reduced their operations following the Hato 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.
In September 2018, the Macau government and the city’s six casino operators agreed on an unprecedented blanket suspension of casino operations due to the passage of Typhoon Mangkhut, the second category-10 storm to have an effect on Macau in little more than year. Locally it caused damage worth MOP1.74 billion (US$215.2 million), according to an estimate released by the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
Macau’s incumbent chief executive Ho Iat Seng had in early February this year called on an unprecedented half-month closure of all the city’s gaming venues, following reports of Covid-19 infection cases among locals. Macau’s existing infectious disease control law enables local authorities to suspend or close business venues for public health reasons.
Macau’s gaming law requires casinos to be opened daily. But it allows operators to suspend operations in “exceptional” situations, upon government approval. The need for operators to get prior approval from the authorities for such a move can be waived in the face of a disaster, serious accident or situations that pose a risk to public safety. In such cases, operators should inform the government of the suspension as soon as possible.
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DS Kim, Amanda Cheng and Livy Lyu
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific)