The outbreak of the coronavirus in China has forced one of the world’s biggest gambling regions to take the drastic step of closing all of its casinos.
The former Portuguese colony of Macua is Asia’s biggest gambling hub, and although it has only 600,000 residents, it attracts roughly 35 million tourists and other visitors every year, the majority of whom come from the Chinese mainland, where gambling is illegal.
But the impact of the virus had already been felt in declining revenues, and now the Chief Executive of Macau, Ho lat-Seng has ordered the closure of all 41 of Macau’s casinos, as well as bars, nightclubs and cinemas for a period of two weeks. So far, the territory has reported 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and one of those cases is believed to involve a worker at a casino.
And Ho Iat-seng also warned that the period of closure could be prolonged if the virus is found to be spreading further. Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, he said that public health had to be the priority, and offered advice to local residents:
“This is a difficult decision, but we have to do it for the health of our residents. Don’t go on the streets if not necessary. I hope everyone will wear a mask no matter where you go, supermarkets or wet markets. Don’t be careless. Don’t take it lightly.”
He also advised residents of Macau to limit their time outdoors, although he also said that there were no immediate plans to close the crossing with China.
The action led to an inevitable drop in the stock prices of all casino operators who have facilities in the territory, following last week’s fall in share prices when it was revealed that visitor numbers had fallen by 80% since the start of the outbreak.