Casinos in Macau have desperately attempted to remain operational as a new wave of COVID-19 overtakes the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR). However, authorities have been forced to close one of them following a significant outbreak at the property.
Macau closed the Grand Lisboa, one of the city’s most famous venues, until July 11. The closure was the result of more than a dozen positive cases of COVID-19 at the property on Tuesday, as infections spread quickly in the world’s largest gambling hub.
At least 16 other buildings in China’s special administrative region are also closed, and no one can leave or enter. The closure of the Grand Lisboa is the first in Macau in over two years.
Macau has also put more than 13,000 people under quarantine orders, as the city struggles to contain its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began. Authorities have recorded more than 900 coronavirus infections since mid-June. Before that, it had been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021.
A Familiar Taleå
The Grand Lisboa is the second casino hotel closed in recent weeks. Owned by SJM Holdings, which was started by the late Macau kingpin Stanley Ho, the property is one of the city’s best-known landmarks.
Local media showed photos of the hotel sealed with people in protective gear and hazmat suits standing outside. Grand Lisboa was not immediately available for comment.
While the government stopped short of imposing a large-scale lockdown on the former Portuguese colony, as seen in Chinese cities like Shanghai, most facilities are closed. In addition, restaurants can only offer takeout. Authorities have asked residents to stay home as much as possible and must participate in three citywide COVID-19 tests this week. People should also perform rapid antigen tests on their own.
Macau casinos have only been allowed to remain open in a move to ensure job security. The government depends on the industry for more than 80% of its tax revenue, with the majority of the population employed directly or indirectly by casinos.
Macau Casino Revenue Takes a Hit
While the casinos are physically open, there are few customers inside, and only a small number of staff. Many employees are staying home to comply with the government’s request.
As a result, July is not going to bring an increase in gaming revenue. June was the worst month of the year in terms of gambling, and this month is likely to get worse.
Macau adheres to China’s “ZERO COVID” policy, which aims to eradicate all outbreaks at any cost. This bucks the global trend of trying to coexist with the virus, and as the outbreak shows, is ineffective.
The city still has an open border with low-risk areas of mainland China. Its economy depends greatly on the influx of Chinese visitors.
However, Zhuhai, a primary connection between the mainland and Macau, requires seven days of quarantine for arrivals from the SAR. In addition, there is a 10-day quarantine for those who travel to Macau from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Portugal. International travel from many other destinations is shut down.