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Typhoon Hato

Macau’s storm-battered casinos and hotels roll out discounts to make up for lost revenue

Tycoons pledge donations, but reports emerge of disgruntled staff forced to volunteer their help

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 August, 2017, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 6:19am

Macau’s major casinos and hotels, still reeling from the city’s estimated US$216 million in economic losses caused by Typhoon Hato, are offering heavy discounts on room rates and fine dining, as they struggle to regain business.

Tropical Storm Pakhar, making landfall on Sunday 80km away in Taishan, added to the mess that Macau must clean up and weighed on the city’s financial woes, even though no fatalities were reported in the second severe storm endured by the former Portuguese enclave in less than a week.

Pakhar, with gale-force winds triggering a No 8 typhoon signal, set back the clean-up efforts by the People’s Liberation Army, which deployed 1,000 soldiers on Friday to help remove debris strewn across some heavily flooded districts in Hato’s wake.

Several major casinos and hotels claimed that their businesses had resumed largely unscathed and visitors were starting to return, even as electricity and water supplies remained unstable, forcing some restaurants to stay closed.

“The casino has reopened and is running normally now,” a front desk employee at the MGM Macau said. “Electricity and water supplies have also resumed. But for the meantime, restaurants are not yet opened.”

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The Parisian’s casino had also resumed business, but electricity and water supplies were unstable. The hotel had stopped accepting reservations until September 1, a staff member said.

Hato ripped through Macau last Wednesday, claiming at least 10 lives and injuring at 240 more, leaving over half the city without water and electricity.

The city’s gaming sector, which has made Macau the world’s premier gambling hub, was hard hit, with many casinos forced to shutter by flooding or blackouts.

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Daily casino revenues could average around 828 million patacas in August, according to an estimate by Japanese brokerage Nomura, which slashed its growth forecast by 6 percentage points to 19 per cent for the month, after Hato struck.

The cut in forecast was based on a report by the South China Morning Post on a two-day shutdown of casinos and hotels forced by Hato.

About 150,000 people work in the hotels and gaming-related sectors in Macau, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of the city’s workforce.

“Hato hit during the peak season for hotels and casinos,” said Lei Kuok-keong, a local leader at the labour advocacy group Forefront of Macau Gaming and director of the gaming guild New Macau Association.

Lei added that hotels and casinos were planning big promotions in September to attract guests.

The city’s casino magnates have come out in force to donate funds toward the city’s clean up and reconstruction. Galaxy’s founder Lui Che-woo committed 60 million patacas from his company and family foundation. Pansy and Lawrence Ho, children of tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, also pledged a combined 60 million patacas from their MGM, MGM China and Melco Resoirts & Entertainment towards relief work. About 500 volunteers at Melco also joined efforts to clean up the city.

Junket operator Suncity Group announced that it donated 5 million patacas to families affected by Hato.

More pressing for gambling operators was the brewing grievance among staff, Lei said. “Some hotels asked their workers to volunteer to help with the clean-up,” he said.

“We also heard some complaints that employees were forced to go to work by taking taxis during typhoons but were told they would not be reimbursed.”

Macau’s labour laws do not cover employees during typhoons or inclement weather.

According to guidelines by the Macau Labour Affairs Bureau, employers should not require staff to report for duty when the No 8 typhoon signal is in force, “except in cases where employees’ performance of work is indispensible to the normal operation of the society, or prior agreement to the contrary has been made by both parties”.