Feb 18, 2020 Newsdesk Coronavirus Crisis, Latest News, Macau, Top of the deck
Macau casinos are preparing to reopen on Thursday in a phased manner and gradually resume normal operations as demand picks up, say most of the city’s gaming operators.
Macau gaming operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd has confirmed to GGRAsia that it is preparing for some form of phased reopening of its temporarily-shuttered casinos, starting from Thursday (February 20) after the local government said on Monday the city’s gaming venues were permitted to do so. Details of what will open were not provided.
A senior executive at another Macau operator – Sands China Ltd, controlled by United States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp – had made similar remarks to Macau’s public broadcaster; while Wynn Macau Ltd, SJM Holdings Ltd and MGM China Holdings Ltd also stated to us that a phased approach to a restart would be applied in their respective casinos.
The existing Macau government-ordered 15-day shutdown of the city’s gaming properties – as part of local containment efforts regarding the novel coronavirus episode – runs until Wednesday (February 19) inclusive.
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong, said on Monday that the government had decided not to extend the period of the closures. However, Macau’s 39 active casinos would not all be obliged to reopen with effect from the stroke of midnight early on Thursday and would instead be given permission to apply for a grace period of up to 30 days before resuming casino operations, the official said.
Galaxy Entertainment’s senior vice president of public relations, Buddy Lam Chi Seng, told GGRAsia on Tuesday: “In line with the Macau SAR Government’s instructions, Galaxy Entertainment Group will resume limited operation of its casinos and VIP rooms from midnight on February 20, and will gradually resume full service based on guest demand.” The firm did not specify names of properties.
Mr Lam added: “Considering the well-being and safety of team members is a top priority, we will continue to strictly follow the instructions of the authorities” regarding prevention of sickness, once “operation is resumed”.
Brokerage J.P. Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd said in a Monday note that February casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau was likely to decline by more than 80 percent in year-on-year terms, “as business will likely remain extremely slow” following the resumption of casino operations.
Limited gaming supply
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai, president and chief operating officer of Sands China, had been quoted on Tuesday by Macau public broadcaster TDM’s Chinese-language radio service saying the casinos at the Venetian Macao, at Parisian Macao, at the Four Seasons Macau and at Sands Macao – the latter’s gaming venue is known as The Plaza – would reopen at the stroke of midnight early on Thursday.
Mr Wong added that the gaming tables put back in action would represent 20 percent to 25 percent of the group’s Macau inventory. The casino at Sands Cotai Central – a property currently being remodelled as the Londoner Macao – would remain suspended, he said.
The executive said while the temporary closures of the city’s casinos had rightly taken into account the safety of frontline staff and patrons, a longer layoff for casino operations in general would have a negative impact on Macau’s economy.
Sands China said additionally in a statement emailed to GGRAsia on Tuesday: “Sands China Ltd welcomes the decision of the Macau SAR government on the reopening of the casinos. The company’s casino operations will reopen in a phased approach, in line with our continued support of the anti-epidemic preventive measures announced by the Macau government.”
The statement went on: “Sands China will continue to implement strict preventive measures [regarding infection] at its properties as a top priority, in order to safeguard the health of team members and guests.”
A Wynn Macau Ltd spokesperson told GGRAsia on Tuesday that a phased restart would take place at the firm’s two casinos – Wynn Macau, on the peninsula, and Wynn Palace, in the Cotai district.
“Beginning Thursday, we will open our casinos in a phased approach that matches guest demand and employee availability. We look forward to welcoming our employees and guests back to our resorts and we will continue to be vigilant in our health and safety procedures,” said the person. No further details were provided.
SJM Holdings noted to us: “SJM will resume partial operation of its casinos from 00:00 on 20 February. Full operation will be restored step by step upon reviewing the actual situation.” The casino operator did not specify what gaming venues would be reopening.
MGM China told GGRAsia that it would “partially resume” operations of its casinos at MGM Macau, on the peninsula, and MGM Cotai from “midnight on February 20,” whilst full operations would be “resumed gradually according to business conditions”.
“We will follow the epidemic prevention measures and related suggestions of the government, placing the health and safety of our team members, guests and all Macau citizens as our utmost priority,” said a company spokesperson.
GGRAsia approached also Melco Resorts but the firm declined to comment.
Several so-called satellite gaming properties in Macau – ones promoted by third-party investors but relying on the relevant gaming permit of existing Macau licensees – also indicated to GGRAsia on Tuesday they would restart gambling operations on Thursday.
They were: Ponte 16, a casino resort located in the city’s Inner Harbour district, and that is promoted by Hong Kong-listed Success Universe Group Ltd; and Casino Kam Pek, managed by Hong Kong-listed Paradise Entertainment Ltd.
Hoffman Ma Ho Man, deputy chairman of Success Universe told GGRAsia: “By Thursday, we’ve planned to have 85 percent of our gaming tables back [in use] on the floor, considering what our business volume will be like and the staff we can deploy.”
Mr Ma noted that the Ponte 16 casino complex – also consisting of the Sofitel Macau hotel – has about 108 gaming tables and 419 hotel rooms.
Sofitel Macau had temporarily closed starting on February 7, a decision made based on “market situation”, Mr Ma remarked to us at that time. Now, his firm is planning to re-open about half of the Sofitel guest rooms starting on Thursday, Mr Ma told GGRAsia in his latest remarks.
In the initial phase following the re-opening of Ponte 16’s gaming facilities, Mr Ma said his firm “did not expect many clients”. “We have provision that when [gaming] business gradually recovers, we will have more of our gaming facilities to be deployed back to the gaming floors,” he stated.
(updated 12.10pm, Feb 19)
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