Macau’s weather forecasting service has warned that another “super typhoon” could impact the city this year.
The Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau used the term in its assessment, published on Monday. It did not specifically refer to a category 10 tropical cyclone – the strongest in the available scale for such weather events – but the warning implied that the city could face further significant disruption to the city’s core business, the casino industry, during 2019.
The bureau forecast that a total of four to six typhoons could come within an 800-kilometre (500-mile) radius of Macau in 2019. It added that the first such severe storm was likely to happen in mid-June or later. The 2019 typhoon season was expected to end in early October.
Typhoon season for the western North Pacific – including the coast of China’s Guangdong province, where Macau and the neighbouring Chinese Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong, are located – is usually May to November, according to the World Meteorological Bureau, a United Nations agency.
Even a relatively milder category eight typhoon results in closure of public transport in Macau even when the casinos run normally. Investment analysts say the suspension of links in and out of Macau to mainland China, Hong Kong and beyond can shave fractions of a percentage point or greater from Macau’s daily casino gross gaming revenue tally during the storm-affected period.
Two super typhoons struck Macau in little more than a 12-month period recently, after a half-century of relatively milder storms.
Typhoon Hato caused extensive flooding and loss of life when it passed close to Macau in August 2017.
Typhoon Mangkhut, which occurred in September last year, brought about the precautionary closure of all casinos in the city – the first such pause in the modern era of casino gaming in the city.
The temporary stoppage was agreed by the city’s government and the six operators of Macau casinos. Such venues in Macau were closed from late on Saturday, September 15 until the following Monday morning
The government said afterwards that it had yet to consider whether to make such closures mandatory when a strong storm threatens Macau. The casino operators could also in future face higher labour costs associated with maintaining staff cover during less severe typhoons, due to pressure from local gaming labour groupings for changes to work roster and compensation practices.
In November, Macau’s Statistics and Census Service estimated that Typhoon Mangkhut caused economic losses to the city amounting to MOP1.55 billion (about US$193 million), including MOP960 million in what it termed “indirect” losses for the gaming industry.
Mangkhut was one of the fiercest recorded storms ever to hit Macau. It passed over the city with wind speeds of about 160 kilometres per hour (99.4 mph), causing serious flooding in the city and damage to infrastructure. Floodwater was as much as 1.9 metres (6.2 feet) above road level in some areas.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés