China Cracking Down on Repeat Travelers Gambling in Macau Amid Zero-COVID

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China Cracking Down on Repeat Travelers Gambling in Macau Amid Zero-COVID

Mainland China is scrutinizing leisure travelers who are suspected of routinely visiting Macau amid the People’s Republic’s persistence of its “zero-COVID” policy.

China Macau gambling casino travel zero-COVID
China Macau gambling casino travel zero-COVID
Wynn Macau is seen in the Chinese gaming hub. China is seeking to limit mainland residents who are frequenting the enclave to gamble, as the People’s Republic maintains its “zero-COVID” policy. (Image: AFP)

“Zero-COVID” has faced much criticism from international health officials, including the World Health Organization (WHO). The policy requires localized lockdowns after clusters of new coronavirus cases are detected. It also severely limits nonessential travel.

China’s National Immigration Administration disclosed earlier this month that it has detected approximately 90,000 mainland citizens who have repeatedly violated the Chinese Communist Party’s order to refrain from leisure cross-border travel. The majority of those repeat offenders, says the agency tasked with monitoring the flow of people in and out of China and its two Special Administrative Regions, have been documented going to Macau with the specific intent to gamble.

In response, China’s Ministry of Public Security is implementing new procedures that will limit mainlanders who have visited Macau more than three times since 2020 from further patronizing the casino enclave until “zero-COVID” is lifted.

Consequences Steep

Global financial services firm Credit Suisse says China seeking to restrict Macau’s frequent gamblers will have a considerable impact on business. In a recent note, Credit Suisse analysts say the crackdown could negatively hurt gross gaming revenue (GGR) by as much as 20%.

Tighter visa control is one of the key reasons for the slow recovery. In fact, GGR for May has been disappointing with GGR falling from MOP200 million (US$12.4 million) during the Golden Week holiday to MOP50 million (US$6 million) last week,” the note explained.

Macau casinos have lost tens of billions of dollars in market valuation amid the pandemic. While other marquee gaming markets like Las Vegas have recovered quickly from COVID-19, China’s “zero-COVID” continuation has kept Macau gaming floors nearly lifeless.

Though Macau GGR climbed 44% year-over-year in 2021, the approximately $10.8 billion in casino revenue remained down 70% from the $36.4 billion the same six casino operators won in 2019.

Good News from Shanghai

Shanghai has seemingly contained its most recent COVID-19 outbreak. Today marked the city’s fourth consecutive day without a new infection. However, 790,000 people remain under a local stay-at-home order.

City health leaders and government officials plan to switch to “Normal Virus Control” sometime next month. That will allow most people to return to more normal life.

But, of course, that return is dependent on another outbreak being avoided. China’s “zero-COVID” preservation continues to disrupt the global economy, as businesses being restricted or limited from operating as usual is causing worldwide havoc.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week urged China to reconsider “zero-COVID.” Tedros doubled down on that opinion yesterday during a media briefing at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

We know the virus better and we have better tools, including vaccines, so that’s why the handling of the virus should actually be different from what we used to do at the start of the pandemic,” Tedros said.

Tedros has labeled China’s “zero-COVID” strategy as unsustainable.

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