Macao casinos could see their chances of a recovery further diminished after national and local Chinese ministries issued travel advisories warning mainland residents against visiting the enclave during the Chinese New Year beginning in February.

As new cases of COVID-19 start to erupt in areas of China, the government is seeking to limit travel as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus further. But Macao, which has reportedly not seen a new COVID-19 case in 200 days, suffered a debilitating 80% decline in monthly gambling revenue in 2020.

Although revenue improved marginally in December, dropping 66% compared to the low-70% range of October and November, and the mid- to high 90% range in the preceding months, it was still going to be a long slog for casinos. Now it might be even longer.

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Bad moon rising

The Chinese Lunar New Year holiday is a key period for the gambling industry in Macao because it can account for as much as 5.5% of the industry's annual gross gambling revenue. 

Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM), and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) had all been anticipating big results last year before the pandemic struck and Macao was subsequently closed for two weeks.

Over the first nine months of 2020, Sands saw $2.4 billion in adjusted property EBITDA at its Macao properties turn into $478 million in losses. MGM's adjusted property EBITDAR of $550 million became losses of $235 million, and Wynn generated $1 billion in adjusted EBITDA losses compared to $652 million in profits.

Travel restrictions to and from Macao over the holiday will lead to extended losses for the resort operators into 2021.

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