Updated: Macau closes casinos, may close borders to fight coronavirus


Update: Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has confirmed all 41 Macau casinos to shut down for the next 15 days effective Tuesday at midnight, with a possible extension if the situation does not improve.

The coronavirus is quickly spreading across mainland China, and to neighboring countries as well. To keep the special administrative district as safe as possible, Macau officials have considered asking casino concessionaires to shut down operarations, and to provide accomodations for Mainland Chinese staff who can’t return home.

macau-considering-closing-borders-and-casinos-to-stop-coronavirusChief Executive Ho Iat Seng announced the government is seriously considering pushing casinos to shut down in a February 4 press conference, reports Macau Business. “We held a meeting this morning to discuss if some casino services should be suspended.[…] This afternoon we will meet with gaming concessionaire and legal advisers. It’s a difficult measure but we have to take it to protect the health of residents. It will have a great impact on the local economy but we need to face this challenge,” he noted.

If the casinos should shut down, the chief executive noted that casinos will be encouraged to continue paying employees.

The decision to shut down casinos to help protect the public comes just a few days after a group representing Macau casino workers asked for a two week closure to protect their members. With a total of 10 confirmed coronavirus cases reported in Macau so far, employees are worried that unsanitary gamblers could spread the virus further.

The DICJ also instituted a policy on February 2, requiring that all casino operators provide accommodations to workers who live in the Chinese interior. This would allow them to stay in the city, so they did not have to return home, endangering themselves to contracting the virus.

In a statement by Lei Wai Nong, Secretary of Economy and Finance, he stressed that “Casino operators must provide this accommodation.” This provision affects anyone working in construction, catering, hotels, cleaning, or casinos who is a non-resident of the city.

Even if Macau casinos don’t close, business will dry up fairly quickly. To this point, China has reported 20,438 cases of the virus, with 425 resulting in death. That has Macau considering shutting down its borders to China entirely; a move which would effectively shut off the primary source of Macau casino players.