March of 2020 turned out to be a fatal month for many small businesses and companies around the world, as plenty of them were forced to close down their establishments because of the ongoing pandemic.
Among those closing their doors were land-based casinos across Australia and New Zealand. Months later, there are still few signs that casinos will open, and if they do, the lie of the land will not be the same.
Social Distancing in Casinos
Most land-based casinos in Australia and New Zealand opted for social distancing measures and increased disinfecting programs when the COVID 19 pandemic broke out. While most smaller land-based casinos decided to close indefinitely, more prominent casino operators chose to stayopen as long as possible.
Australian casino operator Crown Resorts deactivated gaming machines and electronic table games, introduced distancing at table games while banning standing players. Crown Resorts also continued to provide the highest safety measures for both employees and visitors.
Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth casinos which offer food services, banquets, and conference rooms allowed a maximum gathering of 100 people instead of the usual 450.
On the other hand, The Star Entertainment Group that is based in Australia decided to close their locations for four hours each day to conduct detailed cleaning and disinfecting of the premises.
SkyCity Entertainment Group that operates both in Australia and New Zealand decided to continue working as usual while implementing the same measures as mentioned above. All significant events with a high number of potential guests were cancelled. However, SkyCity urged its players to opt for their online casino instead.
Unfortunately, the first steps towards suppressing the virus were unsuccessful and all land-based casinos had to shut their operations until further notice.
Australia’s two biggest casino groups Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group need to reassure their investors that the year will be successful regardless of the shutdowns. All casinos closed on March 23 following orders from the government, which led to plenty of casino staff being laid off.
The Star Entertainment Group released a statement saying that 8,500 employees lost their jobs, as well as casuals and contractors. Executives and directors cut their pay by 40% and 50%, respectively.
Crown Resorts had laid off more than 11,500 of their employees, which comes to about 95%. Remaining employees actively work in critical business positions. Full time and part-time employees were given two weeks’ pay as compensation, while casuals received an A$1,000 payment. However, Crown’s executives and directors decided on only a 20% pay cut.
Both casino groups have taken additional bank loans to try to survive what is probably the most challenging period for them. Star’s liquidity position is strengthened with A$200 million, while Crown Resorts needs a total of A$560m to manage through this strenuous period.
Construction projects of both casino groups were slowed down or halted, which carries an additional hit to the Australian economy.
The Rise in Online Gambling
Only in the first two weeks since shutting down all land-based casinos, online casinos in Australia and New Zealand saw an increase in revenue of 67%. The shutdown of all casino facilities lit a way for New Zealand online casinos, in particular to shine.
The study does not show whether the increase in traffic in online casinos targets only legal activities or illegal ones as well. Currently, online casino gaming and poker are prohibited under the Interactive Gambling Act in Australia. Sports betting and wagering are legal for online bets.
Pokies, being one of the most popular games in Aussie and NZ casinos, took a big hit. Australia only has more than 190,000 pokies machines across the country, and 15% to 25% of the population regularly plays pokies.
Some players have found comfort in online casinos that provide safe and legal online pokies games. However, some high rollers find it difficult to confide in online casinos since many of them find it difficult to trust the online gambling industry.
We urge players to bet responsibly and not to visit any online casinos while bored or under stress. Not playing clear-headed can prove to be dangerous for some players.
Restrictions Still Enforced
Australian and New Zealand authorities stated that it is too early to ease previously enforced restrictions. New Zealand has a wide-ranging lockdown, and Australia has implemented a similar lockdown strategy. Both Australia and New Zealand have activated police checkpoints and expensive fines for citizens that break the lockdown rules.
For now, there are no signs of future public gatherings in both countries. Both smaller casinos and large casino groups will not open their doors to the public any time soon. Active players can find their comfort in many online casinos, while other players will have to wait for their favourite casino to reopen.