Although casino operators such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM), and Wynn Resorts were allowed to reopen their Macao resorts in mid-February following a 15-day mandatory closure meant to help stem the spread of COVID-19, few visitors are returning to the only place in China where it's legal to gamble. Casino revenue in Macao plummeted 80% year over year in March. 

Macao skyline at night

Image source: Getty Images.

Macao's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau said casinos took in just under 5.3 billion patacas ($664 million) in March, compared to the 25.8 billion patacas in revenue they generated a year prior. (The pataca is Macao's local currency.)

Analysts had forecast the territory's gambling revenue would be down some 70% for March. And while the actual result could be viewed as a modest improvement from February, when gambling revenues were 88% lower than in the prior year, casinos were shut down for half of that month.

MGM Resorts had previously warned investors that gamblers weren't returning to its resorts. The Macao government has also imposed new restrictions that block all non-Chinese visitors from entering the gambling enclave after two new cases of COVID-19 were reported there following a month without any.

For the first quarter, analysts had expected a 35% drop in Macao's gaming revenue, but after March's staggering decline, the quarter's actual result was a plunge of 60% year over year.