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Coronavirus: Chinese Gambling Hub Macau Shuts Most Businesses – But Not Casinos

Coronavirus: Chinese Gambling Hub Macau Shuts Most Businesses – But Not Casinos

The government of Macau, a Chinese special administrative region and gambling hub, began shutting down most businesses and public spaces in the region on Sunday to contain a fresh outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus, Xinhua News Agency reported. “The Macao SAR [special administrative region] government has decided to close public venues, including schools, parks, museums and sports facilities starting on Sunday in an effort to reduce crowd gathering,” Xinhua, China’s official state press agency, reported on June 19. Businesses in Macau’s public sector, except those dealing with the emergency or essential services, will suspend operations indefinitely starting on June 20 and June 21. Macau’s government instructed all of the region’s 600,000 residents to observe stay-at-home orders starting on Sunday. “All businesses, except for supermarkets and grocery stores, were asked to remain closed until further notice, and all restaurants suspended dine-in services,” according to Xinhua. Many Macau residents live and work in the neighboring Chinese city of Zhuhai. Macau’s government restricted travel out of Macau to Zhuhai on June 19 by imposing tighter anti-epidemic requirements on commuters. “Those leaving Macao for neighboring Zhuhai city in south China’s Guangdong province are required to present negative nucleic acid test reports [for the Chinese coronavirus] effective within 24 hours instead of the previous seven days,” Xinhua reported. Macau’s government stopped short of closing the region’s lucrative casinos on Sunday, though Macau’s new movement and travel restrictions promise to drastically reduce business across local casinos in the coming days and weeks. “[C]asino revenue is likely to be close to zero for at least a week and likely the coming weeks,” Reuters predicted on June 20, citing the opinion of financial analysts. Staff members at the MGM Cotai resort in Macau on February 13, 2018. (ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images) Macau’s economy is almost entirely dependent on the gambling industry. Taxes from Macau casinos account for 80 percent of the region’s government revenue, and most members of Macau’s population are employed directly or indirectly by casinos. Macau is the only location in China where the government allows Chinese nationals to gamble in casinos.

The region was formerly a Portuguese colony from 1887 to 1999 and borders the former British colony of Hong Kong. Macau is considered the largest gambling hub in the world. “Gambling in Macau, which was legalized in the 1850s, makes up a large portion of the region’s economy,” Statista reported on May 24. “Revenue from gaming and gambling there exceeded 29 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. To put this into perspective, gambling revenue in one of the most famous gaming centers in the world, Las Vegas, generally reaches around six billion U.S. dollars annually.” China’s ruling Communist Party observes a “zero tolerance” policy toward the Chinese coronavirus. This public health policy sees state health officials lock down entire cities for weeks at a time to contain new infections of the disease, even if the number is relatively low compared to the local population. Macau abides by Beijing’s “zero tolerance” policy, as it is directly administered by the Chinese Communist Party. To this end, Macau’s government on Sunday began mass testing all of the region’s roughly 600,000 residents for the Chinese coronavirus. This testing operation continued through Monday, according to Reuters. During recent bouts of mass testing in China, such as in Shanghai and Beijing, Communist Party officials have forcibly quarantined people who test positive for the Chinese coronavirus.

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