Gambling regulators in Macao are calling on casino operators to maintain staffing levels during the slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak. One junket operator laid off 200 workers, or 25% of its workforce, after a mandatory 15-day closure of casinos caused gaming revenue to plunge 88% in February.

In a letter sent to the six casino license holders in Macau, the Gaming Inspection & Coordination Bureau said the local economy would be facing difficult challenges in the current environment, but that "maintaining social responsibility is one of the priorities of the Macau SAR Government." It went on to say, "In this difficult period, companies should make every effort to ensure the employment of employees and maintain a stable labor market."

The junket operator subsequently rehired the 200 employees.

Baccarat chips that say "player" and "banker"

Image source: Getty Images.

Still a ghost town

Yet the casino operators are in a pinch. Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) reported the shutdown was costing it as much as $2.6 million a day while Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) said it was losing $1.5 million daily. 

Even though casinos have since reopened for business, analysts aren't expecting a return to normalcy for some time, with March gambling revenue forecast to come in 70% below last year and the second quarter to see a 35% decline.

However, the unnamed junket operator that sparked the admonishment from regulators has reportedly closed three VIP rooms at Melco Resort & Entertainment's Altira casino, SJM Holdings Grand Lisboa, and the Wynn Macau.