The Macau government has yet to consider whether to make it compulsory for local casinos to suspend operations when Typhoon Signal No.8 or above is hoisted by the local weather bureau. So said on Monday the city’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured), during a briefing on the work carried out by the local authorities in preparation for, and response to, the impact of Typhoon Mangkhut.
The precautionary closure of all casinos from late Saturday until Monday morning due to the passage of Typhoon Mangkhut followed an agreement between the Macau government and the city’s six casino operators. The blanket suspension of casino operations was unprecedented in Macau.
The World Meteorological Organisation has described Mangkhut as the strongest tropical cyclone anywhere in the world so far this year.
Mr Wong said the citywide suspension of gaming operations and the closure of mainland-Macao boundary crossings significantly lowered the traffic load during the most intense period of the powerful storm, ensuring the safety of the general public, of visitors to Macau and of casino employees.
He added that the government was yet to consider whether to make it a rule for casinos to suspend operations when Typhoon Signal No.8 or above is hoisted. Mr Wong noted that currently there were no regulations on this matter.
The blanket suspension of operations in the city’s casinos during Typhoon Mangkhut was “a good example” showing casino operators and the government share the common goal of ensuring the safety of gaming workers, Mr Wong added.
The Macau government proposed in June that the city’s top official could order the ad-hoc closure of casinos in case of an emergency or disaster. The measure 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.
The proposal was part of an overhaul of Macau’s civil protection system, following last year’s Typhoon Hato. It was included in a document put to public consultation.
Typhoon Hato 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.
Some casino worker groups have been calling for some years for the city’s casino employees to be exempted from work when Typhoon Signal No.8 or above is hoisted. Many public service workers are excused workplace attendance in those circumstances.
Some of Macau’s most outspoken labour groups have praised the blanket suspension of operations in the city’s casinos during Typhoon Mangkhut.
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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Hoffman Ma Ho Man
Deputy chairman of Success Universe Group, promoter of casino-hotel Ponte 16