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Crown Among Companies Seeking to Reopen Businesses
Australia was hit by the coronavirus pandemic as have most places around the world. However, as compared to many countries hard hit by COVID-19, Australia seems to have mitigated the damage better and earlier.
Even so, most Aussie businesses have been closed per government directions since mid-March. More than a month and a half later, casinos are among the companies anxious to reopen and try to start repairing the damage inflicted by the pandemic.
Australia Took Precautions Early
Health officials in Australia watched the reports of mass illness and death coming from Wuhan, China as 2020 took hold. And as the numbers grew and reports piled up from other countries like Italy, Australia took some early measures that may have helped mitigate the damage.
Australia started February by blocking all travelers from China. A handful of cases had been recorded by the third week of February when Australia began requiring self-isolation for any travelers entering its country. Cruise ships were also prohibited from docking in Australia.
At the same time, the Aussie government banned Iran travelers, South Koreans soon after, and Italians by the second week of March.
Meanwhile, health officials began limiting gatherings, first to 500 people at outdoor venues during the first days of March. But they quickly expanded those limitations as the number of reported COVID cases grew to nearly a dozen per day. They limited indoor gatherings to 100 persons, closed the borders to all non-citizens, and quickly moved to close all pubs, clubs, casinos, etc. Those actions seemed to be in sync with the number of cases doubling and tripling.
Flattening the Curve
However, the government’s quick actions throughout the country may have been one of the best responses in the world to the pandemic.
On March 24, there were 424 cases, which ended up being the high mark of the incidence chart. There were 419 new cases on March 28, but the numbers trended downward from there. With a few exceptions of daily increases, Australia seemed to be drastically reducing new cases. As April came to an end, the numbers of new cases dropped as follows:
- April 19: 41 cases
- April 20: 11 cases
- April 21: 18 cases
- April 22: 6 cases
- April 23: 13 cases
- April 24: 21 cases
- April 25: 17 cases
- April 26: 9 cases
- April 27: 8 cases
- April 28: 18 cases
- April 29: 7 cases
- April 30: 17 cases
- May 1: 11 cases
To date, as of May 3, Australia has recorded 5,690 cashes, of which 1,015 are currently active. Ninety-five people have died from coronavirus thus far. (Guardian Australia provided the numbers, sourced from territory and state media releases.)
Australia flattened its curve quickly as compared to other large countries, and its numbers remain considerably low in comparison.
Reopening Options Under Consideration
The Age reported this week that Crown Casino executives joined a state government-organized group to discuss the possibilities surrounding reopening businesses. Representatives from pokies companies, pubs, and community clubs attended as well; Tabcorp, Woolworths’ pokies sector ALH, Australian Hotels Association, and more were involved.
The group has been working closely with the Department of Justice to develop a list of requirements for a variety of businesses that want to be some of the first to reopen.
Even so, the Aussie government may not allow major venues to reopen until July or August. State Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz indicated a late-July date may be possible.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is planning to review, with the national cabinet, all restrictions at a meeting on May 8. But no matter the date given for reopening, all venues – especially those in the hospitality industry – will have a month or so to prepare first. This will include deep cleaning, company directives, employee training, supply accumulation (masks, gloves, thermometers, etc.), and protocols for employees and customers to be implemented.
A New Gaming Industry
A source in the gaming industry told The Age that facilities will likely have to limit capacity to one person for ever four square metres of floor space. People will be required to maintain a 1.5-meter distance between each other.
In addition, patrons will likely be required to submit to a temperature reading before entering. Every second gaming machine will likely be turned off and their stools removed. Table casino games will likely be restricted to three or four people per table with a seat separating each person.
Companies like Crown Resorts will face major decisions. The company stood down 95% of its employees after the shutdowns, while Star did the same with 90% of its staff. Not only do they want to bring back as many employees as possible, they want to stave off further financial losses.
The sooner they are able to resume some type of operations, the sooner their executives can figure out their next steps and a better picture of the future.
Bring Customers Back from Online Casinos
Many gambling enthusiasts and poker players moved their action to online casinos and poker rooms during the shutdown. With no live options available, they tested out many of the online casinos that still offer poker games and casino games to Aussies.
Some online casinos reported deposits up 60% in the past month, though initial numbers in March indicated as much as a 67% increase.
None of the companies benefiting from online gambling are located in Australia due to strict laws that prohibit any online poker or casino activities. Since prohibition doesn’t work – especially in a time of home-based quarantines – online gambling is thriving.
Google Trends reported searches for online poker and online casino options for Australians quadrupled since mid-March.
And some sites anticipate that many of their new customers will remain at the online sites even when the pandemic passes. The ease of gambling online coupled with the dangers of frequenting establishments where the virus could still spread is probably the key combination.