Number of Macau casino closures climbs as coronavirus threat continues


As the number of deaths from the coronavirus continues to climb in mainland China, precautions are being taken elsewhere to thwart the spread of the virus. Officials in Macau had issued a call for casinos to temporarily halt operations for 15 days, and many have responded. As of the latest count, 23 casinos have temporarily turned off their lights in hopes that they will quickly be able to resume normal operations if the flu-like virus can be contained.

The latest casinos to agree to the halt are Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16, Legend Hotel and Rocks Hotel. Melco Resorts also announced that its Altira has shut down, just days after several casino operators had acknowledged that they were following protocol and locking their doors. The latest closure adds a total of 921 hotel rooms to the offline count until February 20, at the earliest.

Altira, Grand Harbour Hotel and a number of guesthouses have also followed suit, some willing to bring to a halt every aspect of their operations while they await further guidance. What was once a bustling city with lights rivaling those of Las Vegas now appears more like an abandoned complex where only the occasional person can be seen on the streets.

Many casino operators have donated millions of dollars toward efforts to stop the coronavirus from spreading and to help treat those who have been diagnosed as infected. To date, around $90 million has been contributed, but the operators are taking even bigger losses with the closure. In addition to not seeing money flow into their venues, they’re also shelling out more money in the way of refunds for hotel cancellations and commercial payments.

MGM China announced that it won’t seek rental payments from any tenants occupying retail space in its Macau venues. Grant Bowie, MGM China’s CEO and executive director, said when making the announcement, “We adopt stringent measures to protect our guests and team members. At this difficult time, our thoughts are also with our retail tenants, especially the local [small and medium enterprises]. We hope that this rent relief can help alleviate their burdens so they can ride out the current hardship for a swift recovery.”

The City of Dreams and Studio City, both operated by Melco, have begun to refund hotel bookings for any stays through February 29. Customers can opt to rebook their visits if they like, but can opt for their money back if alternative travel arrangements can’t be made. Galaxy Entertainment Corp, which operates Galaxy Macau, StarWorld and Broadway Macau, are offering similar policies. According to some data sources, occupancy in certain venues has dropped to as low as 5%.

All of the efforts seem to be paying off, and Macau may be able to start a rebound soon. Macau health officials indicate that there have not been any new cases reported in the past five days.