Apocalypse Macau: ‘Ghost town’ gambling hub reports record low visitors amid coronavirus casino shutdown

Author Thomas Wolf
February 15, 2020 3 min read

In late January, Macau Casinos was hit by a travel ban due to Coronavirus scares. On February 4, all 41 of Macau’s casinos shut their doors to visitors—certainly for the next two weeks, but potentially even longer than that.

The unprecedented move was prompted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. This serious new respiratory disease, estimated to cause viral pneumonia in around 1% of hospitalized patients, has infected 45,000 people across the world (but mostly in the province of Hubei in China) and killed just over 1,100 as of February 12.

With seven out of ten visitors to the Special Administrative Region coming from mainland China, even if the rest of the world manages to largely contain the outbreak, things still don’t look too great for Macau and its casinos.

90% Reductions

To illustrate how hard the city has been hit already, despite seeing only ten confirmed infections, you only have to look at visitor numbers since January 27. Compared to the number of visitors arriving on that day, arrivals have now dropped by nearly 90%.

In fact, on Saturday, February 8, Macau’s Public Security Police Force recorded just 2,800 arrivals in the city–the lowest ever total since records began.

However, the city’s giant casinos (gambling revenues account for 90% of the region’s tax income) have been pulling together to help mitigate the virus’ effects and spread.

Together, the 30 or so largest casinos in the city have donated over $25 million to charities and hospitals in China combatting the virus.

MGM China has also stated it won’t be requiring rental payments from those with retail concessions or other rented space in their casinos.

“We hope that this rent relief can help alleviate their burdens so they can ride out the current hardship for a swift recovery,” said the group’s CEO Grant Bowie.

Even with these upbeat declarations, the shutdown is estimated to be costing casinos a collective $100 million a day. And that’s without mentioning the impact on hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions.

“We don’t know what’s coming. So much of life here is connected to gaming,” said Carlos Lobo, a local lawyer, who has worked for Macau’s gambling regulator in the past.

No New Cases

Although the virus is considered likely to be a global problem for a few months to come by many experts, such as the World Health Organization, containment measures have so far been seemingly effective in combatting the virus.

International cases have been rising, but not at the same rate they previously were in China.

Macau hasn’t reported any confirmed new cases of the 2019-ncov virus in the city between February 5 and yesterday, which is some positive news.

Some key investors in the wider south-east Asian region, such as Vietnam’s NagaCorp, have even publicly stated they foresee the virus being a ‘short-lived’ problem. 

However, Macau’s authorities apparently disagree (at least for the time being), and it has been reported they are considering extending the closure of the city’s casinos until the end of February.

Keep checking back here, and we’ll make sure you’re updated on this ongoing story as it develops over the coming weeks.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

384 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.
Macau low on visitors due to Coronavirus