China President Xi Jinping addressed the nation yesterday during the opening of the National Congress of the Communist Party, a gathering that occurs every five years inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Addressing the party’s Central Committee in anticipation of Xi being reelected to a third five-year term — unprecedented in modern China — the communist leader celebrated the nation’s “zero-COVID” pandemic response. China remains the only global superpower that continues to implement strict lockdowns in response to new COVID-19 cases.
“Zero-COVID” has been blamed for Macau’s ongoing economic woes. One of two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) in China, the other being Hong Kong, Macau relies predominantly on casino gambling for its economic prosperity.
But those casinos continue to operate in just a shell of their former selves, as China’s e-visa scheme remains on hold.
Macau casinos began a rebound in 2021, as gaming recovered 44% from 2020 to $10.8 billion. Still considerably lower than the $36.4 billion the six gaming firms won in 2019, gaming fortunes reversed this year — revenue down 53% in 2022 through nine months compared with 2021.
“Zero-COVID” has few supporters outside of China. World leaders and economists have blamed the pandemic policy for ongoing global supply chain disruptions. The strategy has also halted China from moving towards life with COVID-19 as most other nations have done.
In responding to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, we prioritized the people and their lives above all else, and tenaciously pursued dynamic ‘zero-COVID’ policy in launching an all-out people’s war against the virus,” Xi declared.
The president went on to say that “zero-COVID” is the “best choice” and is “sustainable and must be followed.”
Outside the National Congress in Beijing, a rare protest of the party occurred when demonstrators held various banners and signs expressing opposition to the coronavirus response.
Say no to COVID test, yes to food. No to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity,” read one banner. “Don’t be a slave, be a citizen. Go on strike, remove dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping.”
The public typically pays little attention to the party’s congress, as they have no say on the convention’s outcome and leadership reshuffling. Xi is expected to be sworn in later this week for a third five-year term. Prior to Xi, most party leaders stepped down following 10 years in the position.
The gaming concessions in Macau for Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and SJM Resorts are set to expire at 12:01 am local time on January 1, 2023. The casinos are awaiting the results of the enclave’s tending process, which is underway after seven companies bid — Malaysia-based Genting Group being the lone outsider to participate.
It’s largely expected that Macau decides to maintain the status quo of its gaming industry and issue fresh 10-year tenders to the current six operators. But there is a slim chance that Macau might shock the world gaming industry by going another route.
Then there’s “zero-COVID,” a pandemic policy that continues to keep Macau’s casinos empty of meaningful customer traffic. The perilous issues are why many Wall Street analysts believe it’s a long road ahead for investors in Macau’s publicly traded casino stocks.
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