Macau casinos may have received permission to reopen to the public after the coronavirus scare, but the casinos don’t appear all that interested in reopening until they’re sure the public wants in.
Earlier this week, Macau authorities informed the special administrative region’s casino operators that they would be allowed to relaunch their gaming operations at midnight on Thursday (20). The announcement marked the end of the 15-day shutdown that Macau authorities imposed as a way to minimize further spread of the coronavirus.
However, while one might expect the casinos to be chomping at the bit to relaunch their operations and make up for all that lost revenue, Macau’s government also gave the casinos an out by allowing them the option of applying for an extension of up to 30 days of the suspension of their operations if they felt they weren’t ready to resume business as usual.
While it’s unclear if any operator has so far applied for an extension, the Macau Daily Times reported Tuesday that at least five of Macau’s six casino concessionaires don’t plan to return to full capacity until they’re sure there’s sufficient public demand. Most are planning phased openings that match guest demand and employee availability.
Analysts are suggesting that casinos are wise to temper their expectations for a quick recovery. Nomura analyst Harry Curtis suggested that China may not fully relax its restrictions on mainland residents’ access to the individual visit scheme program for another six weeks, making any return to full casino operations an “empty gesture.”
But casinos need to do more than just go through the motions in rejigging their operations to comply with the Macau government’s orders to minimize the risk of a large number of individuals congregating in close proximity.
Only half the gaming tables in any one area will be allowed to operate, while every gambler seated at a table must have an empty chair between themselves and another gambler, and no standing bets will be permitted. Similarly, slots jockeys must keep at least one machine between themselves and their neighbor. And everybody, from gamblers to casino staff, must wear masks until told otherwise.
Macau’s operators have offered hints of how much the 14-day shutdown was costing them, with Wynn Resorts saying it was losing up to $2.5m per day, mostly due to staffing costs. Analysts have suggested that the market’s February revenue could tumble as much as 80% year-on-year.