Posted on: July 9, 2022, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: July 9, 2022, 06:37h.

Macau casinos, as well as all other nonessential businesses, have been ordered to shutter operations for a one-week period. That’s as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread rapidly throughout the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Macau casinos close China COVID-19 pandemic
Macau casinos are going dark beginning July 11 after the local government ordered them to close amid ever-increasing COVID-19 caseloads. The pandemic is alive and well in the Chinese gaming hub, which has put daily life on hold. (Image: Bloomberg)

From Monday, July 11, through Monday, July 18, Macau casinos will be dark and closed to the public. André Cheong Weng Chon, Macau’s secretary for administration and justice, said only supermarkets, pharmacies, medical facilities, and other businesses and services critical to human life are allowed to keep their doors unlocked during the weeklong lockdown.

All persons must remain at home, unless for reasons of necessary work, purchase of basic goods for everyday life, or for other urgent reasons,” the Macau government mandate orders. “People must wear a mask when they go out, with adults using masks of type KN95 or higher standard.”

Macau in June instructed most nonessential businesses other than casinos to temporarily cease their operations in an effort to slow the spread. It didn’t work.

Casinos Urged to Pay Workers

Casinos are responsible for generating around 80% of the enclave’s annual tax revenue. Being the city’s largest employer, local officials sought to avoid a full cessation of gaming operations. But with the virus showing no signs of slowing, further action is needed, Macau leaders say.

Macau’s six commercial casino operators have gone to great lengths to appease the local government throughout the more than two-year COVID-19 pandemic. With their coveted gaming licenses soon expiring — and a public tender process to begin in the coming weeks — the casinos have tried to stay in the government’s good graces in hopes of improving their odds of receiving new permissions.

While Macau is heavily expected to issue new 10-year permits to each of the six gaming operators, the companies, at their own expense, have done their best to limit the financial hurt incurred by the people.

During Macau’s first and only previous government-ordered shutdown of gaming, the casinos largely paid tens of thousands of workers during the closings. Asked by Inside Asian Gaming whether casinos should pay their workers during next week’s shutdown, local leaders said it’s up to the companies. But they urged policies that lessen the impact on both the casino and its staff.

“Employers are not required to pay staff salaries, but it is better to come up with a solution that is best for both employers and employees,” said Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong.

Counts Continue Climb

Macau’s Health Bureau today confirmed 71 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total to 1,374 positive infections in the region since mid-June.

Prior to the current outbreak, Macau had managed to keep the enclave relatively free of the virus. The total number of cases in Macau prior to June was less than 50 infections.

Macau is following China’s “zero COVID” lead that requires an authoritarian response when even a handful of cases are identified in a locale. The draconian policy, which has been criticized by much of the rest of the world, has apparently failed to prevent the spread of the virus’ latest variant.