As one of the worlds biggest industries, gambling is rarely too far away from the finance news headlines. And right at the heart of that industry is the global casino business. Whether it be at the best online casinos, or in brick-and-mortar operations, players continue to flock to the thrills of the casino environment in ever increasing numbers. Until Covid-19 hit that is.
As with all industries, gambling has not been immune to the effects of the global pandemic. Whilst some areas seem to have now come out of the other side – most notably Las Vegas which recently attracted near record numbers to the annual World Series of Poker – in other locations the pace of recovery has been significantly slower.
Macau Sees 95% Decrease in Revenue
In recent years there have been few casino destinations quite so hot as Macau. No surprise then that the Covid-enforced shutdown hit the autonomous region on the south coast of China very hard.
Following the zero-tolerance COVID policy of the Chinese government which resulted in the complete ban of travel into Macau from China – where the vast majority of the region’s business comes from – Macau casinos were forced to shut completely for twelve days in July; that closure being triggered by a total of 1,800 COVID-19 cases since the middle of June – Macau’s worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.
Predicted to result in a 98% decrease in gross gaming revenue, things weren’t quite as bad as that, but they weren’t far off; July seeing a 97% drop to a total of just $49 million – officially the worst month since records began in 2009. Recent news however suggests that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be too far away.
Is the End in Sight?
Following a nine-day period which saw no new recorded cases in the area, Tuesday 2nd August will see fitness centres, dine-in restaurants, beauty salons and bars join casinos in being permitted to reopen for trade. Whilst the casinos themselves opened their doors once again on the 23rd of July, this latest move still represents a significant shift towards normality.
Whilst undoubtedly a positive step, the days of Macau being the number one gambling destination in the world – even surpassing Las Vegas – may be a little way off yet. Residents still must wear a mask whenever they go outside, whilst a negative COVID-19 taken within the last three days must be presented to enter the vast majority of venues.
China Holds The Key
The decision of when and if Macau will return to pre-pandemic levels rests largely with China. Until the Chinese government eases its restrictions on travel into Macau, the region is set to remain something of a gambling ghost town.
Given the latest improvement in cases, combined with the fact that over 90% of Macau residents are now fully vaccinated, some forecasters predict that travel may be permitted in early 2023. Still a little way to go yet, but things do at least seem to be moving in the right direction.