It seemed like Macau was set to slowly begin recovering post-Covid, with mainland China having reinstated e-visas last month. However, the gaming hub has once again taken a hit that further casts doubt over its future. According to the latest reports, authorities in the city have once again reinstated tough Covid-19 curbs after a handful of cases were detected at the MGM Cotai casino. On Sunday 30, the casino was ordered to shut down with staff and guests ordered to stay inside until November 1.
"Casinos, hotel staff, and hotel guests will be quarantined in place immediately," the city government said in a statement according to Reuters, adding that all stores and restaurants attached to the hotel resort would also remain shut. Government health workers were at the MGM Cotai site with no one allowed to enter or exit the building.
Furthermore, the government said that all of Macao's 700,000 residents have been mandated to take rapid antigen tests daily during the period. The casino closure couldn't come at a worse time for operators, who have already been struggling with China's Zero Covid restrictions for more than two and a half years, leading to the monthly loss of millions of dollars.
The closure comes after Macau detected its third coronavirus case this month, after having no cases for more than three months. The latest restrictions pose a potential setback for industry executives and investors who have been anxiously hoping for a quick recovery in gambling revenues in the gaming hub. However, the prospects for travel to Macao have improved with China's immigration bureau saying on Monday that mainland residents would be able to use an online visa system from November 1 to travel to the former Portuguese colony.
In-person applications have been required for the past two and a half years due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the bureau said that as the current COVID-19 situation in Macao was stable and demand to visit the city was increasing, the government had decided to offer e-visas, reports Channel News Asia.
It is worth mentioning that there are currently seven companies awaiting a government decision regarding six licenses that are set to be awarded for the operation of gambling venues from 2023 onward. These include the current six operators – Wynn Macau, Sands China, MGM China, SJM Holdings, Galaxy Entertainment, and Melco Resorts – and a seventh company, GMM Limited, part of the Genting Group.
Any operators unable to secure a new license would be required to return their premises to the government. New license terms will be 10 years versus 20 years previously, giving operators a shorter horizon to take back billions of dollars they have to invest under the government's mandate. Macao casino executives also said a decision on the licenses could come as early as this week.
Shares in Hong Kong-listed Galaxy Entertainment and Wynn Macau dropped more than 3% early in Monday's session but later reversed course to trade in positive territory.