Macau Partially Resumes Tourist Visas, Hopes For Gambling Industry’s Recovery

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Macau is the world’s largest gambling hub, defeating Las Vegas on the throne. The Chinese special administrative zone’s economy relies on its casinos.

The prolonged travel restrictions from and to the country have caused massive damage to its casinos’ revenue, which dragged down its economy.

Casinos in Macau shut down operations in mid-March because of the government’s battle against the novel coronavirus. Travel restrictions were imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The neighboring nations banned the entry of tourists from the gambling hub. China imposed travel from and to Macau, while Hong Kong restricted ferry travel to the special administrative zone.

Macau resumed the operations of its Casinos in February, 15 days after the shutdown, since its coronavirus infection rate remained low. Macau reported 46 cases of the novel coronavirus, and its last patient went home clear of the virus in March. The gambling hub reported no cases of death due to the deadly disease. There was no report of a new case of contamination since then.

Macau reinstates tourist visas

Macau’s government resumed the tourist visas for its neighboring city of Zhihai to boost its gambling tourism. The majority of visitors to the casinos in the country uses tourist visas. The Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Ao Ieong U, announced that it would resume the individual visit scheme starting August 12.

The 90 percent of visitors to Macau came from China. Casino operators saw hope in June when Guangdong province lifted the restrictions to the world’s largest gambling hub. However, China reinstated the restrictions when the number of new cases rose. The resume of the scheme ignited home for Macau’s gambling industry.

In July, the Chinese government lifted the travel restrictions between Macau and Guangdong. Vitaly Umansky, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong, said the Zhuhai Individual Travel Scheme’s restart has a limited impact on casinos’ revenue. He added that the scheme’s resume is a baby step towards the right track as China and Macau gradually loosen travel restrictions.

Shares rallied after resuming of tourist visas

On Monday, stocks of US casinos operating in Macau rallied after the news of the tourist visas’ resume. Morgan Stanley reported that Macau’s casinos lost nearly 90 percent of revenue in the last four months because of the ban on Chinese tourists. However, the same report said the casinos in the gambling mecca suffered losses of nearly $15 million every day.

Because of the loosened restrictions on travel to Zhuhai, stocks of Las Vegas Sands Macau rallied 7.31 percent while MGM increased by 14.03 percent at $21.67.  Wynn Resorts is up 9.34 percent at $80.28.

Analysts at Jefferies believed that the move is crucial for the casino industry. They commented that it is the first significant step to recovering the casinos’ gross gaming revenue. They also believe that other Chinese cities will follow.

The individual tourist visas contribute 47 percent of visitors from mainland China to Macau, while group tours provide 23 percent. The analysts said the two factors were the key drivers of Macao casinos’ gross gambling revenue.

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