Macau casino takings plunge record 88% after virus closures

MACAU: Macau's casino industry suffered its worst monthly downturn on record in February after city-wide closures aimed at stopping the spread of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, said the local government officials on Monday (Feb 2).

The former Portuguese colony took the unprecedented step of shutting down almost all of its lucrative entertainment sector in early February, including casinos, nightclubs and many bars.

Takings for the month plunged 87.8% from the previous year, according to figures released by gaming authorities late Sunday.

Macau has recorded only 10 Covid19 infections and has not detected any new cases for a month.

But the vast majority of its tourists are mainland Chinese drawn to the city's casinos, and arrival numbers have plummeted since the outbreak began.

Still, observers said the former Portuguese colony would bounce back.

"We do not think Covid-19 will curb gamblers' enthusiasm in a sustainable way, so its impact on the industry's sustainable earnings power should be limited," JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts said in a note.

Macau's government has been keen to ensure the casinos keep employing staff through the downturn and are trying to avoid lay-offs.

Officials have ordered all gamblers and casino staff to wear face masks.

First found in the city of Wuhan in central China, the new coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people on the mainland and 98 in Hong Kong.

It has also killed nearly 3,000 on the mainland and two in Hong Kong.

Macau depends almost entirely on gaming revenue, raking in more in a single week than Las Vegas makes in a month. The sector accounts for 80% of government revenue. - AFP

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