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The Macao government has just renewed the licenses of the city’s six major casinos. The seventh surprise candidate, a Malaysian hotel group, did not receive its authorization. Licenses now limited to ten years, and not twenty as before. The former Portuguese colony is the only territory in China where gambling is allowed. A sector hitherto very flourishing, but today battered by the pandemic and the draconian health restrictions imposed by Beijing.
Before Covid, with an annual revenue of around $28 billion, Macau’s gambling industry brought in three times as much money as that of Las Vegas, USA. But the pandemic has been there, causing the flow of visitors to drop. As a result, casino revenues have plummeted 88% compared to 2019.
Even if China allows its nationals to travel there again, Macau’s gambling halls will struggle to return to normal levels of activity, experts warn.
However, the local economy remains very dependent on the gambling industry. The money generated by around thirty casinos represents the main source of government tax revenue. More than half of the city’s gross domestic product depends on it and a fifth of the population works there.
The authorities are seeking to diversify the economy by investing in tourism and leisure activities other than gambling. A goal that has become even more pressing with the “zero Covid” strategy imposed by Beijing.