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Good news for casinos as Macao eases travel restrictions

Updated January 5, 2023 - 5:56 pm

Macao eased its inbound travel restrictions, months after the gambling enclave forced casinos and other businesses to temporarily close as it fought a coronavirus outbreak.

The Chinese-controlled territory on Thursday announced that visitors arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong or Taiwan do not have to show any proof of COVID-19 testing. Travelers from other locations must show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours.

The measures, which take effect Sunday, follow a turbulent year for casino operators in the lucrative gambling market.

Macao’s 39 casinos generated $5.24 billion in gross gaming win in 2022. This marked the lowest haul on record and was down 57.4 percent from 2021, the Review-Journal reported. The worst year prior to 2022 was $7.51 billion in 2020.

Macao’s casino operators include three Las Vegas-based companies: Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts Ltd. The operators recently had their gaming licenses renewed for a 10-year term that started Sunday.

The three companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new travel policy.

In an effort to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, Macao’s government ordered casinos and other businesses to close from July 11 to 18, and then extended the closures through July 22.

Analysts estimated the closures would spark a $1 billion loss for Macao’s casinos. The government said it intended to distribute $1.24 billion to businesses affected by the shutdowns, the Review-Journal reported.

As of July, ​​casinos and other businesses were forced to limit staffing levels to 50 percent of normal; dining-in at restaurants was banned; and bars, cinemas, nightclubs and malls, except street-level shops, were shuttered.

The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, including Dr. Miriam Adelson, majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Las Vegas Sands President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Dumont.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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