After the coronavirus scare, Macau casinos may have been given permission to reopen to the public, but the casinos do not seem all that interested in reopening until they are certain the public wants in.
Macau authorities told casino operators in the special administrative region earlier this week that they would be permitted to restart their gaming operations on Thursday at midnight (20). The announcement marked the end of the 15 day shutdown imposed by Macau authorities as a way of preventing further coronavirus spread.
But, whilst it is expected the casinos would want to relaunch their operations and and recoup 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 after their operations had been suspended if they felt they were not ready to resume business as usual.
While it’s unclear whether any operator has so far applied for an extension, the Macau Daily Times reported on Tuesday that at least five of Macau’s six casino concessionaires are not planning to return to full capacity until they’re certain there’s enough public demand. The majority are preparing staggered openings to balance the demand of visitors and the availability of employees.
Analysts suggest casinos are prudent in tempering their expectations for a quick recovery. Nomura analyst Harry Curtis suggested that China may not fully relax its restrictions on access by mainland residents to the individual visit scheme programme for a further six weeks, making any return to normal an “empty gesture.” But casinos should do more than just go through the motions to rejiggle their operations to comply with the Macau government’s orders to minimise the risk.
Only half of the gaming tables will be allowed to operate in any one location, while each gambler sitting at a table must have an empty chair between themselves and another gambler, and no standing bets will be allowed. Likewise, slots jockeys have to keep at least one console between their neighbours and themselves. And everybody has to wear masks, from gamblers to casino staff, until they have told otherwise.
Macau’s operators have offered hints of how much the 14-day shutdown cost them, with Wynn Resorts saying it was losing up to $2.5 million a day, mostly because of the cost of staff. Analysts suggested that revenue from the market in February could fall as much as 80% year-on-year.