Macau’s gaming operators must be ready to adapt their gaming floors to a variety of possible recovery scenarios over the coming months if they hope to avoid a worst-case situation of repeated shutdowns, according to MGM China CEO and Executive Director Grant Bowie.
Revealing that MGM has modelled multiple scenarios for Macau’s post-COVID-19 recovery, Bowie warned that the expectations of its customers would likely be very different once business starts to return but that it was up to operators to provide an acceptable response.
“The issue of social distancing, the whole issue of confidence is going to be critical,” Bowie said while appearing as special guest for the maiden event of IAG’s online innovation platform, GAME.
“We have to get people to be able to travel freely and with confidence back into Macau and then we’ve got to reconnect with our customers. Some of those people might have changed their behaviors and changed their habits.
“That’s going to be an interesting time for us all but I would expect that the whole issue comes down to a very simple word: confidence. It’s about safety, confidence from our customers in terms of their personal capacity and then we’ve got to demonstrate that we’re doing all of the steps and testing that we need to do because I think we need to be realistic if we listen to the science.
“We’ve seen the first wave (of COVID-19 infections) in Macau and the second wave, but let’s hope the third and fourth wave are totally isolated.
“What we as operators need to demonstrate is that we know how to react, because what we don’t want to have to do is go back to a complete shutdown. We’ve got to be able to contain it to be able to move forward.
“Off and on would be a terrible situation for us to be in.”
Asked for any insights into how and when Macau’s borders might start to re-open, Bowie said it was impossible to offer any absolute certainty with MGM instead preparing itself for multiple possibilities.
“I think the key issue is we’ve got to respond to the market, so the plans are fairly fluid – we’ve had an April plan, a May plan, a June plan, a July plan. Each one of those plans has had to evolve and they will all be triggered by external events,” he said.
“Our teams in sales and marketing and areas like that are spending all their time trying to develop and redevelop and refine while also staying connected with our customers. Through M life we have relationships with customers which we need to maintain but also use them for active research – what are they thinking, how are they feeling, what are their expectations, what is their probability of coming back to Macau, how do they see their businesses and communities being affected and what do they need to feel comfortable to come back?”
Bowie agreed with market sentiment that premium segments were likely to recover at a faster rate than the mass market, but suggested all areas of casino operations would need to get used to a new normal.
“I think [gaming floors] will be more spaced out, I don’t think we’ll get the concentrations of people for quite some time,” he said.
“As we see it now, there are restrictions that the government has reasonably imposed and until such time as we can demonstrate that we can operate safely those restrictions will apply, so limiting the number of people at each gaming table, limiting the concentration of people around gaming machines, whether people must wear masks, use sanitizer.
“There is also the issue of cleaning chips as we go, so all of those things need to be put in place to provide that level of confidence. And it will need to be continuously monitored and continuously assessed.”