For its part, Macau’s gaming sector says it sees the threat of the virus, reported to have hit Hong Kong and southern China in January, as a temporary one, and is prepared to cope if it becomes a nuisance. Industry insiders say their casinos’ computer systems are monitoring the spreading of the virus, known as coronavirus.
South Korea announced Friday it is investigating 12 more possible cases of the virus, though Hong Kong said it does not expect new outbreaks.
The virus caused more than 100 deaths in Saudi Arabia and about 300 cases worldwide in 2014. Health officials said at the time that the main outbreak originated with the handling of chickens in Eastern Europe.
Mark Frost, a public-relations spokesman for Galaxy Entertainment Group, declined to comment further on the outbreak, but in a statement to the Macau Daily Times, said that “there is no impact to our business at this point in time.”
Industry figures point out that the virus has yet to get too close to the city’s gaming resorts, which churn out more than 10% of the world’s casino revenue every year.
Macau is the only place in China where citizens are allowed to legally gamble. Workers at the resort casinos have spent years improving their systems and collecting sample data to learn more about the virus.
Macau Gov. Fernando Chui Macau, right, presents an award to John Hinman, president of Sands Corp., the owner of Sands Cotai Central, Macau, China, at the opening ceremony of the center in Macau, China, on Nov. 15, 2015. John Lee / AP
Richard Huang, a Macau delegate to the Legislative Assembly, said that the casino segment accounts for only about 16% of the city’s economy.
Lianna Marti, an academic at the University of the Philippines who has studied the virus, said that governments can lose credibility when they look the other way.
“We have seen from Turkey [who has not reported any cases of the virus] and from other parts of Asia where we have had cases of VX [a deadly chemical] that the governments look the other way and they have a lot of credibility issues,” she said.
They also leave residents at risk, because the virus is not confined to specific areas, she said.
On the table at the control room are 1,100 rows of screens displaying data on the virus, he said. The data are gathered from servers at the casinos, hospitals and hospitals.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission in Macau said it is not aware of any domestic cases of the virus.
The virus is not “as common in the gaming sector as it is in other hospitals,” Marti said. “The casinos are pretty busy. People know to wash their hands and do manual disinfection.”
Wavoo.com CEO Steven Brennan said in an email that the outbreak “is a scare tactic by the government to get back the public funding, who want a single healthcare system for everyone.”
“I can understand their concern as it impacts the visitors to Macau,” Brennan said. “But it’s a much more complicated situation than what’s portrayed in the media.”
By day and night
Macau had 9,262.6 metric tons of gaming revenue in 2018, generating $59.96 billion. The city has almost no zoning rules: Macau is dotted with residential buildings facing the gaming industry’s property, despite the fact that it is under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government.
Under the city’s leadership, Macau has tried to upgrade its overall infrastructure and procedures in response to the rising VIP gaming, construction-related and illegal activity. The most-cited reform has been the Macau Operating Law, which allows Macau casino companies to pay a tax of as much as 6.5% of gross sales to the government, up from the 0.5% currently in place.