Macau Relaxing Quarantine Policy for Some Travelers, But Casinos Unlikely to Benefit

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Macau Relaxing Quarantine Policy for Some Travelers, But Casinos Unlikely to Benefit

Macau casinos experienced their worst month of the entire COVID-19 pandemic in July, as gaming revenue totaled just $49 million.

Macau casino quarantine China zero COVID
Macau casino quarantine China zero COVID
Commercial airliners taxi on the runway at Macau International Airport. Macau is easing its quarantine rules for people arriving in the enclave internationally or from Hong Kong or Taiwan. (Image: Shutterstock)

For a meaningful recovery to initiate, China and the casino enclave need to reopen their borders and do away with mandatory quarantine requirements. Macau took a small step in easing its entry procedures this week by announcing a reduction in the number of days travelers arriving internationally must isolate.

Effective August 6, visitors coming from foreign locations, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan, will be ordered to quarantine for seven days instead of 10. The policy easing was announced by Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center.

Along with Hong Kong, Macau is one of two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) in the People’s Republic of China.

Mainlanders are permitted to venture into Macau but must test negative for COVID-19 prior to their departure and then isolate for seven days.

Border Essentially Closed

While Macau is reducing the number of isolation days for people arriving from international origins, the enclave remains closed to most foreigners. Exceptions include those who are arriving for essential reasons, as well as those who have some sort of residency status in Macau.

Those who are permitted to come and go must adhere to the quarantine requirements and test COVID-19 negative before their trip.

Macau slightly easing its quarantine rules will have little impact on the region’s casinos.

Gaming analysts expect August’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) to only be slightly better than July’s when the casinos were closed for 12 days on government orders. With visitor traffic remaining essentially zero — the few people who are being processed through the enclave’s border gates primarily coming for essential reasons, not to gamble — analysts say casinos won’t rebound until China allows life to return to a sense of normal.

China remains closed to most non-residents. The country maintains its “zero COVID” policy that is not only hurting gaming revenue but various business sectors across the mainland.

“China’s slowdown has been worse than anticipated amid COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, economic counselor and director of research at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), wrote in a note this week.

Until China does away with “zero COVID,” Sanford C. Bernstein gaming analyst Vitaly Umansky doesn’t see how a casino recovery is possible.

You are stuck in this ‘zero COVID’ situation where it’s unclear when the government’s actually going to do anything about it,” Umansky told Bloomberg. “The reality is right now there’s nobody in Macau.”

GGR January through July is down 54% from 2021 and 85% below pre-pandemic 2019.

Casino Hotels End Quarantine Services

Macau commissioned several casino hotels to serve as designated quarantine centers amid the June and July outbreak. But with case counts easing and the latest variant seemingly under control, Macau this week ended those agreements with four casino resorts.

Macau officials said Grand Lisboa Palace, The Parisian, Studio City, and the Grand Hyatt at City of Dreams are no longer host quarantine hotels. The casino resorts hosted many of the more than 1,800 people who tested positive for COVID-19 during the past two months.

Macau has not reported a new community infection since July 23, which prompted the withdrawal of the four casinos serving as medical observation facilities.

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