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Macao casinos can reopen this week after 15-day coronavirus closure

Updated February 17, 2020 - 6:25 pm

Macao casinos operated by Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. can reopen this week after a 15-day closure imposed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in China.

Lei Wai Nong, the finance secretary for the territory on China’s southern coast, announced the decision Monday at a news conference, according to Macao broadcaster TDM. The casinos can resume operations after the stroke of midnight on Thursday, according to the Macao government’s website.

The three Las Vegas-based companies agreed to comply with the Feb. 5 casino shutdown — while leaving hotels and restaurants open — after a second casino worker, a 29-year-old woman employed by the Galaxy Macao, was confirmed to have the virus. The new virus has infected more than 72,000 people in mainland China.

Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said the company plans to reopen its two properties — Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace Cotai — in a phased approach that matches guest demand and employee availability.

Weaver said Macao officials “have been appropriately thorough and judicious in their handling of the virus and we have confidence in their decision to permit casinos to reopen. We look forward to welcoming our employees and guests back to our resorts and will continue to be vigilant in our health and safety procedures.”

Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese declined to comment Monday, and representatives from MGM did not respond to a request for comment.

Union Gaming analyst John DeCree said the closure had a “pretty significant impact on everyone” because the casinos have high fixed operating expenses.

Wynn CEO Matt Maddox said the closures are costing the company between $2.4 million and $2.6 million a day. MGM is losing around $1.5 million of operating expenses a day across both of its properties, mostly payroll related, during the shutdown. Las Vegas Sands’ six casinos in the special administrative region of China saw a major dip in visitation before the shutdown, and the 35,000 employees of the company’s casinos stayed home following the closures.

“Depending on how long it takes to return to normal, we could see very little first quarter earnings, or even negative earnings out of (Macao) casinos,” DeCree said. 

Even so, shares for the three companies have remained relatively stable over the past two weeks. MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said last week that he didn’t expect the virus to have a long-term impact on the company.

DeCree agreed, adding that he suspects there will be “pent up demand when things return to normal through Asia, whenever that may be.”

No date has been announced for reopening other public facilities in Macao, including cinemas, internet cafes, bars and gyms.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. AP News contributed to this report.

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