Crown’s Perth casino to remain shut until February 14

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Following a small COVID-19 outbreak in Western Australia, the state’s only casino, Crown Perth, will remain closed until February 14.

Fin News Network airports that the Perth venue will see its casino and theatre remain closed after the state imposed a five-day lockdown.

Hotel, food and beverage, banqueting and conference facilities reopened from February 6, in accordance with temporary restrictions imposed by the government.

Crown Perth said it will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities in Western Australia and will respond to measures taken by the government in relation to COVID-19.

Shares in Crown Resorts traded 1.43 per cent higher on Monday at $9.92.

Star benefits for Crown uncertainty

Crown Sydney casino VIP gaming
The constant uncertainty surrounding Crown Resort’s new Sydney venue is music to the ears of rival casino operator Star Entertainment, analysts have revealed.

Casino.org reported that JPMorgan analysts upgraded shares of the Star Sydney operator to “overweight”, citing several tailwinds while pointing out the stock trades at a noticeable discount to Crown.

Crown Resorts opened its highly anticipated Barangaroo venue in Sydney last December, but the casino at the $1.6 billion venue isn’t operational, pending a regulatory inquiry into the operator’s suitability to hold gaming licences.

The results of the investigation are due out in the next two weeks, and it’s possible the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will return a ruling of “unsuitability”, meaning risks around the venue will linger into next year, according to analysts.

With the fate of Barangaroo’s gaming operations still up in the air, JPMorgan sees a favourable competitive environment in Sydney for Star, where the company operates Star Sydney.

“Home to The Darling, the only luxury hotel in NSW to be awarded a Forbes 5-Star rating and recognised for three consecutive years, it also features the award-winning $100 million The Star Event Centre.

Another catalyst in the eyes of JPMorgan is Star’s debt reduction plans.

The company had $2.34 billion in total liabilities as of June 2020, according to Wall Street Journal data.

At the height of Australia’s coronavirus shutdown, Star trimmed $10 million a month in operating expenses.

That more efficient operator model, coupled with a revamped loyalty program, could lead to higher margins, noted JPMorgan.

The bank adds shares of Star, which added almost four per cent on news of the upgrade, trade at a price-to-earnings ratio of 19.3 times, a noticeable discount to the 26 times sported by Crown Resorts.

As is the case with other Asia-Pacific gaming markets, this year is expected to be a slog toward recovery for Australia’s operators, with analysts forecasting some type of rebound later in the year.

On that basis, gaming companies in Australia are looking to control costs, with eyes toward a more earnest return to normal in 2022.

JPMorgan said Star will remain committed to cost controls and reining in capital spending this year, as revenue for the 2021 fiscal year at Australia’s casinos is likely to reach just 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Updates on cost initiatives could arrive on February 18, when both Crown Resorts and Star deliver results for the first half of 2021.

Crown Melbourne tops list of Aussie junket transactions

crown casino Melbourne logo
The majority of transactions involved junket tours in Australia were at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, a new report has revealed.

The Herald Sun reported that 295 transactions linked with junkets were made in Melbourne, according to figures from Australia’s financial crimes watchdog.

In total, the Victorian casino made 50,000 reports to the watchdog in 2019, including almost 5000 relating to suspicious transactions.

Austrac warned junket tour operators this month they were the target of organised criminal syndicates and foreign spies seeking to launder money through casinos and potentially make political donations.

Junkets bring in high roller gamblers from China to casinos and extend credit to them, enabling them to get around Beijing’s tight controls on capital.

William Brown

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