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Macau casino takings plunge record 88pct after virus closures

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A recovered patient is discharged from the temporary hospital, which applies traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment to patients, in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 26, 2020. TCM has been widely applied in treating infected patients as it has been proved effective in improving the cure rate. (Xinhua/Shen Bohan)

AFP – Macau’s casino industry suffered its worst monthly downturn on record in February after city-wide closures aimed at stopping the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The former Portuguese colony took the unprecedented step in early February of shutting much of its lucrative entertainment sector for two weeks – including casinos, nightclubs and many bars.

Takings for the month plunged 87.8 percent from the previous year, according to figures released by gaming authorities. Macau has recorded only 10 COVID-19 infections and has not detected any new cases for almost a month.

The vast majority of the 35 million tourists visiting each year are mainland Chinese drawn to the city’s casinos. Arrivals have plummeted since the outbreak began, with visitor numbers one-fifth of usual levels.

Still, observers expect the former Portuguese colony would bounce back.

“We do not think COVID-19 will curb gamblers’ enthusiasm… so its impact on the industry’s sustainable earnings power should be limited,” JPMorgan Chase analysts said in a note.

Macau’s government has been keen to ensure casinos keep on staff through the downturn and avoid lay-offs. But while authorities allowed gaming venues to reopen on February 18, they said operators concerned about low tourist numbers could apply to remain closed for another month.

Officials have ordered all gamblers and casino staff to wear face masks.

First found in the city of Wuhan in central China, the new Coronavirus has infected nearly 80,000 people on the mainland and 98 in Hong Kong.


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