Macau tourist arrivals from China plunge 80% on Sunday, in blow for casinos

People are seen wearing masks outside a casino resort in Macau on Jan 22, 2020.
People are seen wearing masks outside a casino resort in Macau on Jan 22, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - China's deadly virus outbreak is threatening the outlook for casino operators in the world's largest gambling hub.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau fell 80 per cent on Sunday (Jan 26), the third day of the holiday, compared with the equivalent day during last year's Lunar New Year break, according to the city's tourism office.

For the first three days of the holiday, arrivals were down 66 per cent, the data show.

That's a blow for an economy which is reliant on the gambling industry, and comes after casinos suffered their worst year since 2015.

The outlook is unlikely to get any better as China limits travel for its citizens, including overseas tour bans, amid the growing death toll caused by the novel coronavirus.

At least 80 people have died in mainland China from the virus, which started in Wuhan city, while confirmed cases have jumped to more than 2,700.

Macau officials have extended school holidays until Feb 10 to help stop the spread of the illness.

There are now six confirmed cases in Macau.

Macau's leader Ho Iat Seng said on Thursday (Jan 23) that he couldn't rule out closing all casinos in the city due to the disease outbreak, according to a Radio Television Hong Kong report.


Wynn Resorts plunged 11 per cent in U.S. trading last week, while Wynn Macau sank 13 per cent in Hong Kong. Sands China dropped more than per cent.

Hong Kong's markets are closed for holidays until Wednesday (Jan 29).

President Xi Jinping last month during a visit to Macau praised the city's government for maintaining stability while stressing the former Portuguese enclave needed to diversify its economy.

Unlike restive Hong Kong, Macau has long been seen as more loyal to Communist Party rule. Gambling accounts for 80 per cent of the local government's annual revenue. In China, box office sales plunged to about 6.1 million yuan (S$1.2 million) over the first three days of the holiday, compared with 2.3 billion yuan in the year-earlier period, according to Maoyan Movie data.

Cinema operators including Dadi Cinema, Jinyi Cinemas and the local affiliate of CJ CGV announced last week they were halting operations January 24 through January 27.

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