Macao casino revenue sinks 79% as mainlanders stay away

HONG KONG — Macao’s casino revenue plunged 79% in 2020 as tough entry restrictions to combat COVID-19 kept visitors away, bringing into relief the strong dependence on gamblers from mainland China.

Gross revenue came to 60.4 billion pataca ($7.6 billion) in statistics from the Macao government. The figure declined for a second straight year, hitting a 14-year low.

The authorities had shut casinos down for 15 days in February over the new coronavirus. Even after the facilities reopened, casino revenue was down 97% on the year in June.

Macao started allowing visitors from the mainland in September once the outbreak was brought under control. Gambling facilities have seen business improve, with revenue down 66% for December. But a full recovery is far off, as mainlanders must submit negative COVID-19 test results before entering, and foreigners are still basically barred from crossing the border.

Another negative factor is the spreading of the coronavirus in Hong Kong. Not only has this made it difficult for Hong Kongers to visit Macao, but travel agencies are unable to sell popular tours of both destinations. Casino revenue in Macao in 2021 will reach only about 80% of the 2019 figure and will not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2022, according to projections by Bernstein Research.

Macao casino operators all fell into the red for the January-June period. The government is trying to convert the economy to one driven by family-friendly resorts instead of the gaming industry, but the earnings slump could impact the companies’ capital investment.

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