Macau to shut casinos for first time in two years as China’s gambling hub moves to curb rising number of new Covid-19 cases
- The city will suspend almost all business activities for a week from Monday in a bid to control a rising number of new Covid-19 infections
- The last time Macau suspended the operations of all casinos was in February 2020, when the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the city
“This is an official order with legal consequences,” said Cheong Weng-chon, Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice. He indicated that offenders could face two years in prison, or get fined for up to 240 days, according to the city’s anti-epidemic law.
The order puts the city under a “standstill status”, instead of a citywide lockdown, Cheong said.
The latest closure could deal a heavy blow to the Chinese gambling mecca, where casino taxes account for more than 80 per cent of the local government’s revenue.
Macau’s gambling industry has already been hit hard by economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with gambling revenue falling 68 per cent year-on-year to 3.3 billion patacas (US$408 million) in May. By contrast, pre-pandemic revenue in May 2019 reached 26 billion patacas.
There were 93 new Covid-19 cases reported in Macau on Sunday, taking the total number of cases to 1,467 since mid-June. Four rounds of citywide mass testing were announced on Friday, following six previous rounds since mid-June.
Before the latest measure, operations of all entertainment venues and dine-in services were already suspended from June 23, except for casinos. City leader Ho around that time said the Macau government forged an agreement with local gambling companies last year to only close “whichever casino is in trouble”.
Macau’s first landmark casino, The Grand Lisboa, was closed on July 7 – with more than 500 people locked inside – after 13 employees tested positive for Covid-19.