The local gaming sector recovery will end up outpacing that of Las Vegas, University of Macau Integrated Resort and Tourism Management Associate Professor, Glenn McCartney, stated last week.
“I say that because Macau will catch up. Nevada has its problems with Covid-19 breakouts and having to close down some hospitality areas. Macau has been very cautious on its step-by-step recovery, and I think that will pay off in the medium to longer term. In that regard, recovery will be faster”, McCartney said.
“If I’ve seen anything about the Macau casino data in the last decade is its ability to get revenues back quicker thanks to the Chinese market […] It will take a few months, but you will soon see the leaps and bounds of revenue.”
The UM tourism researcher was speaking after a talk held by the British Chamber of Commerce of Macao.
Las Vegas casinos were allowed to re-open with restrictions on June 4, but after 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases were reported in the state of Nevada, authorities decided to halt phased reopening plans.
In the first month since Las Vegas casinos re-opened after a coronavirus-induced shutdown, gaming revenues for the Nevada state dropped by 45.5 percent to US $566.8 million.
Despite a 15-day government-mandated shutdown in February, casinos have been open in Macau with several health measures put in place, and with a much-reduced number of visitors to the city.
Cross-border restrictions with Guangdong were lifted in June, no new Covid-19 cases have been reported for more than a month, and currently visitors from the province can come to Macau if they can provide a valid negative Covid-19 nucleic acid test.
This seems to have led to an 88 percent rise in local gross gaming revenues in July from the previous month, reaching some MOP 1.3 billion, still a far cry from the MOP 24.4 billion reported in the same month last year.
Starting from August 12, Mainland China authorities will also resume issuing all types of visas, allowing the entry of mainland residents in the Macau SAR, with the exception of tourism visas, such as the much-awaited individual travel visa.
According to Professor McCartney, an IVS restart for Guangdong visitors would already be a precious step towards the recovery of the local sector.
The Individual Visit Scheme (IVS), which was suspended in January, allows mainland residents to visit Macau and Hong Kong in their individual capacity, and accounted for half of all mainland visitors to Macau last year.
“If we can get Guangdong with IVS, I think that’s a very good start, it gives a positive statement to the casino and hospitality industry […] I think we would be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s also a good policy decision in terms that we don’t know the previous mass numbers and that we want to have a cautious number [of tourists]”, McCartney stated.
“I don’t think the casino industry, the government of the community wants to see outbreaks and we have to restart again. […] Guangdong is a good start and then we can look at other provinces and cities so we have these corridors, so we can track and trace and put all types of precautionary steps [in place].”
The tourism expert also noted that local casinos will have to get used to regular health policies being implemented in their properties, such as having staff wearing health masks, sanitization efforts, and body temperature checks as those have been a crucial element of the tourism industry in assuring guests that they are in a safe space.
“Will the industry change in terms of patrons? No. […] Some of the actions we take inside the casinos will change in terms of precautions but I don’t think it will disrupt the casino experience. There are lots of exchanges between cards, dice, and chips. That’s part of the casino experience, and it won’t go away. There will be a lot of sanitizing and cleaning”, he added.
“We’ve adjusted the travel experience […] we have more steps when we go to the airport and that will be the same when we go to a casino, but that will not stop the growing numbers of people who want to go and gamble or come to Macau for leisure.”
Still, he underlined that it would be challenging to enforce social distancing measures in an activity considered so “communal” for Chinese patrons as gambling, and that it would have to be a learning process as players return to the now empty local casino floors.