Addressing Wednesday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) Director Paulo Martins Chan announced that 29 of the city’s 41 casinos will reopen for business today (Thursday) – in fact, they reopened their doors at 00:00 today (Thursday), while the remaining 12 casinos have applied to defer reopening their doors.
According to Chan, only less than 30 per cent of the six gaming operators’ gaming tables will be operational, about 1,800 in total, initially, when 32 percent of the staff in the 29 casinos will return to work.
The government announced on Monday that the city’s casinos can reopen for business from 00:00 today (Thursday), following their 15-day government-ordered closure to reduce the risk of the spread of the highly infectious disease. The government said on Monday that casinos that were not “fully prepared” to re-launch their operations right away could apply to defer opening their doors for up to 30 days. After the 30-day transition period, the city’s casinos must fully reopen.
Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng ordered the temporary casino closure on February 4 when the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen from 8 to 10. The casinos were temporarily closed at 00:00 on February 5.
According to the website of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, the 41 casinos comprise 22 owned by SJM, six by Galaxy, five by the Venetian Macau (Sands), four by Melco, and two each by Wynn and MGM.
According to Chan, among the 12 casinos that have not reopened are two SJM-owned casinos – Macau Palace and Greek Mythology – that have not been operating for a few years.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) announced a string of measures that the city’s six gaming operators (SJM, Wynn, Galaxy, Sands, MGM and Melco) must take for the reopening of their casinos.
According to Tuesday’s DICJ statement, the string of restrictions that the government has imposed on casino operations include: 1) gamblers must remain seated, and 2) at least one seat must be left vacant between a gambler and another gambler at the same time on a gaming table. The statement said that for instance, only three to four gamblers are allowed to gamble at the same time on a seven-seat gaming table.
According to the statement, the restrictions also include: 1) only up to half of the gaming tables in each gaming area are allowed to be operated so as to ensure sufficient distance between the gaming tables, and 2) one to two slot machines must be left non-operational between two slot machines so as to ensure sufficient distance between the gamblers.
According to the statement, both staff and visitors must wear facemasks, undergo a temperature check, and submit a self-filled health e-declaration before entering casinos.
In the past, several dozen gamblers often crowded around a particularly “lucky” gaming table and many preferred not to be seated while placing their bets.
According to Chan, the 12 casinos that remain closed until further notice comprise: 1) Sands Cotai Central, 2) Melco’s Altira and 3) Grand Dragon, 4) Galaxy’s Waldo, 5) Rio and 6) President, and 7) SJM’s Oceanus, 8) Eastern, 9) Macau Jockey Club (a casino adjacent to the Macau Jockey Club racecourse in Taipa) and 10) Casino Taipa, as well as 11) Macau Palace and 12) Greek Mythology.
Chan made the remarks on Wednesday evening at the Health Bureau (SSM) adjacent to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre.
During the daily press conference on Monday, Lei said that the government had made the decision to reopen the casinos after striking a balance between maintaining strong COVID-19 prevention work and ensuring the employment of the workers in the gaming sector.
Chan said on Wednesday that his bureau, the Health Bureau (SSM) and representatives from the city’s six gaming operators had a meeting on Tuesday, in which SSM officials briefed them on the official guidelines on disinfection of gaming premises and facilities.
The Macau Jockey Club has also been allowed to resume racing.
At the end of last year, the gaming industry comprised 6,739 gaming tables and 17,009 slot machines. It employed 57,840 people, around 44 percent of them dealers (croupiers), according to data from the Statistics and Census Bureau (DSEC).
In 2019, Macau’s gaming and betting businesses generated gross gaming receipts of MOP 293 billion (US$36.6 billion), according to DICJ figures. Direct gaming taxes – 35 percent of the casinos’ gross gaming receipts – generated 86 percent of the government’s income in the first 11 months of last year, according to data from the Financial Services Bureau (DSF).
One more discharged
During Wednesday’s press conference, Lo Iek Long, clinical director of the public hospital, noted that Macau has not confirmed a new COVID-19 case for 15 consecutive days. Macau’s last two COVID-19 cases, the 9th and 10th cases, were confirmed on February 4.
Lo also announced the discharge of the sixth COVID-19 patient – Macau’s second confirmed case – Wednesday, a 66-year-old man from Wuhan. The patient, who returned to the mainland shortly after his discharge, has applied to be exempted from paying his hospital bill of 47,000 patacas due to his financial condition. Only one of the six patients discharged so far has paid her bill.
Including Wednesday’s case, six of Macau’s 10 COVID-19 patients – seven tourists from Wuhan and three locals – have been discharged.
Public parks to reopen today
Meanwhile, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U announced during Wednesday’s press conference that Macau’s public parks and gardens will reopen this morning after a 15-day shutdown.
The government on Wednesday also announced stricter border control measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in Macau. For instance, Macau residents who cross the city’s border checkpoints three times or more a day will have to submit themselves to a medical examination.
The new border control measures took effect at 00:00 today (Thursday).
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © The Macau Post Daily/MPDG