Macau casinos had been allowed as of Monday to restart operation of an aggregate of 3,100 gaming tables, representing about 46 percent of the existing gaming tables in the market. The information was disclosed in a Monday press release by the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, a body also known as DICJ.
Currently, there is an aggregate of 6,754 gaming tables in Macau casinos, according to information provided by government officials.
A total of 38 of the city’s 39 active casinos had resumed operations as of Monday, said the DICJ. Currently, only the Casino Macau Jockey Club in Taipa, located in the Macau Roosevelt Hotel, is yet to restart operations. The gaming venue is under the licence of SJM Holdings Ltd.
Macau casinos – shuttered for 15 days to contain the spread locally of the Covid-19 disease linked to a novel coronavirus that has now spread globally – started to reopen on February 20, offering at the time about 1,800 gaming tables, representing “below 30 percent” of the existing inventory in the market. The government gave operators the option however of applying for a grace period of up to 30 days before relaunch.
Resumption of gaming was however conditional on operators taking special precautions at the request of DICJ, in terms of density of seating for customers at gaming tables and ensuring there was a certain minimum space between tables in use.
In Monday’s release, the gaming regulator said it would continue to conduct site inspections to “safeguard the health and safety of workers and customers in the city’s casinos”.
Since February 20, the casino regulator said it had identified 28 cases where the government guidelines were not being followed. Some of those included crowding of gaming tables and some patrons not wearing face masks. In addition, the DICJ said it followed up on nine complaints, although it did not provide in its press release any details on those matters.
Even after partial resumption of gaming business, investment analysts were not expecting the Macau market to see a fast ramping up of trade, due to factors including various travel restrictions imposed in China and beyond to try to contain the virus’ spread.
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a Monday note that it estimated March casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau “to be down between 75 percent to 80 percent,” assuming no significant improvement in travel arrangements.
The institution said that hold rate volatility could also affect its estimates for March. “If VIP hold moderates and volumes do not improve, GGR could easily be down more than 80 percent,” said analysts Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu. “The operators we have spoken with do not see any clarity on timing of recovery at this time,” they added.
According to Sanford Bernstein’s estimates, Macau’s casino GGR for the first eight days of March was MOP1.4 billion (US$174.9 million) with an average daily rate of circa MOP175 million, down 79 percent from the prior-year period.
Macau casino GGR declined by 87.8 percent in February in year-on-year terms, negatively impacted by the 15-day shutdown ordered by the city’s government as part of the efforts to contain the spread locally of the Covid-19 disease.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance