Macau will have to revise down budget estimates, urges more vaccination

Ho Iat Seng

Macau will have to revise down its budget forecasts due to low gaming revenue and warned greater border opening won’t be possible at current low vaccination rates.

Speaking at a press conference Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, said “gaming revenue will fall and we will review the budget,” Macau Business reported.

He gave no further details on what the expectations are now for this year. The current estimate is for tax revenue of MOP130 billion ($16.2 billion), half of what it was in 2020. He said so far government spending has been MOP100 billion. 

The chief executive also didn’t have high hopes for Macau’s inbound tourist numbers during the October Golden Week, even if the border restrictions between Zhuhai and Macau are eased before October 1st.

Macau’s recovery from the Covid pandemic has been slowing, with two local outbreaks likely to have a significant impact on gross gambling revenue.

The gambling hub discovered the first local cases in more than 500 days in August, triggering the reimposition of more onerous testing requirements for anyone travelling to and from the Mainland. The resulting disruptions led to the lowest level of GGR so far this year for Macau.

The situation had begun to improve in September, with analysts looking for a bump from the key Golden Week holidays, which begin on Oct. 1st. Visitation during September 19-25 averaged 48,500, however, it went down to as low as 3,000 after the first border movement restrictions were imposed, the newspaper reported. 

Speaking on Thursday, Ho urged Macau residents to get vaccinated, saying the current low rates had hindered border reopening.

Only 47 percent of the local population of some 640,000 has received both doses, despite easy access to the vaccines. 

“With such a low vaccination rate how can I negotiate with the central government to reinstate package tours? […] Many people complain the economy is not doing well but every sector in society needs to make an effort to build herd immunity. I can’t just go to the central government with a 50 or 60 percent vaccination rate,” Ho was reported as saying. 

Although Macau has had quarantine-free travel with Mainland China since September last year, Beijing still has not reinstated group travel visas. It is also not possible to apply for individual visit scheme visas online. Both visa sets are seen as crucial to drive a meaningful recovery in visitation.