Macau closes all its casinos to curb COVID, gambling stocks plummet


Residents wearing face masks line up to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Macau, China, July 4, 2022. REUTERS/John Mak

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  • More than 30 zones in the city locked
  • Four rounds of massive COVID testing planned this week
  • Macau’s casinos have been effectively closed for several weeks

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – Macau closed all of its casinos on Monday for the first time in more than two years, causing shares in gambling companies to tumble as authorities struggle to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak yet in the world’s largest gambling hub .

The city’s more than 30 casinos and other businesses will close for a week and people have been ordered to stay at home, although short trips for essential services were allowed.

Police will monitor the influx of people outside and severe penalties will be imposed on those who disobey, the government said.

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While many casinos have been effectively closed in the past three weeks and only allowed minimal staff, the more drastic measures have hit investor confidence hard. Some analysts predicted that any recovery in gaming revenues would not occur until the end of the third quarter or the fourth quarter.

“We should probably write off models in July and probably August,” said DS Kim, an analyst at JP Morgan.

Shares in Sands China (1928.HK) plunged 9%, while shares in Melco International (0200.HK), Wynn Macau (1128.HK), SJM (0880.HK), Galaxy (0027.HK), MGM China (2282 .HK) fell between 6% and 7%.

Macau has registered about 1,500 COVID-19 infections since mid-June. About 19,000 people are in mandatory quarantine as the government adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy aimed at eradicating all outbreaks, counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.

More than 30 zones in the city that were considered high-risk are now closed, meaning no one is allowed to enter or leave for at least 5 days. Although the government said it would not impose a citywide lockdown, the strict measures mean Macau is effectively closed.

Casinos were last closed for 15 days in Macau in February 2020. The government was previously hesitant to close casinos because of its mandate to protect jobs. Industry directly and indirectly employs most of the population and accounts for more than 80% of government revenues.

Frustration is mounting with the government’s handling of the outbreak. Fighting has broken out in testing centers as some residents have had to queue for more than 20 hours to access healthcare facilities.

Residents must participate in massive COVID-19 testing four times this week. They have already been tested six times since mid-June and are expected to do rapid antigen tests on a daily basis.

More than 90% of Macau’s 600,000 residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but this marks the city’s first time with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Authorities have added two hotels in popular casino resorts to be used as COVID medical facilities as they try to increase capacity to deal with the wave of infections. read more

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Stephen Coates and Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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