Macau operators not conducting mass layoffs, casinos to remain open

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong
Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong

Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong, has said so far gaming operators are not laying off staff and the government hoped to ask for the lifting of the individual visit scheme once the Covid-19 situation stabilizes.

Lei was cited by local media as saying that there had been some isolated layoffs, but they were due to violations on the part of staff and not prompted by the crisis. He was speaking after a Standing Committee for the Coordination of Social Affairs meeting. 

The government is pressing the operators to retain staff despite a 60 percent plunge in gross gambling revenue in the first quarter. The casinos were forced to close for a 15-day period in February and even though they are now open, strict social distancing measures and tightened border controls mean that visitation is minimal. 

GGR dropped 80 percent in March and some analysts are predicting that April will be even worse as visitors cannot access Macau. 

Lei told the media that the reduction in GGR was in line with what the government had been expecting and that the casinos would not be closed again. He also confirmed that an MOP10 billion ($1.25 billion) fund to help local business would not go to gaming companies. 

He said Macau would take the initiative to request the resumption of individual travel visas once the situation stabilizes. The lifting of the ban is seen as key to recovery in Macau.

Macau had 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of April 3rd, all of them imported. The territory had been free of new cases for 40 days before a spate of cases were brought back in from abroad.