Earlier this week, Sydney’s The Star and Melbourne’s Crown casinos announced new social distancing measures following the government’s ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.
Yesterday, the ban was yesterday revised to 100 people, yet as of today, the casinos remain open. In an uncomfortable echoing of their lockout law exemption of the last few years, it begs the question, why are the casinos still open?
Despite the government announcing a ban on all non-essential gatherings over 100 people, the casinos are currently remaining open.
The social distancing measures introduced by the casinos earlier this week include one in two pokie machines being turned off so that gamblers are unable to sit next to each other, as well as a reduction of players in table games. These allow compliance with the government’s call for citizens to remain 1.5 metres away from each other.
Following yesterday’s ban on 100 person gatherings in Australia, Inside Asian Gaming reported that Star Entertainment Group would be closing its three casinos in Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast for four hours every morning for deep cleaning starting from today. In addition, the Star Poker room has cancelled its weekly tournament.
Yet, whilst other casinos around the world have closed, The Star and Crown so far remain open. Yesterday, Nevada – the state which is home to America’s gambling capital, Las Vegas – announced a month-long pause on gambling. This includes the closure of all casinos, bars, and even pokies machines in convenience stores, as well as movie theatres and gyms, allowing restaurants to only serve takeaway or delivery.
Interestingly, a public hearing for an inquiry into probity and licensing issues involving the Crown Resorts owned by James Packer has been delayed. The hearing was due to commence on Wednesday and has been postponed indefinitely due to concerns around the virus.
Taking to Instagram yesterday, local satirical news site, Betoota Advocate posted a headline which read, “Crown Casino to be classified as a provider of essential services” – referencing the term used to apply to a class of vital businesses or services – such as healthcare and supermarkets – which are exempt from restrictions.
One user jokingly commented on Betoota’s post: “It’s a matter of consistency! Surely?” Whilst another commented: “When satire is truth, do you laugh or cry. Keep on laughing”.
The exemption of casinos remains a controversial topic in New South Wales after the Star Casino was excluded from the 2014 lockout laws, which were established in an attempt to curb late-night violence.
The laws went on to wreak havoc on Sydney’s nightlife, closing down many businesses and venues and bringing in 500,000 fewer visitors to the city each year. To top it off, a report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research actually found that the rate of violence increased in the casino after the introduction of the lockout laws everywhere else.
Earlier today, ABC’s Victorian state politics correspondent Richard Willingham reported that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has given Crown an exemption:
— Richard Willingham (@rwillingham) March 18, 2020
Predictably, people have responded with disbelief.
— 💧Denise Allen 🐨🐨🐨🐝🐝 (@denniallen) March 19, 2020
— Nic Holas (@nicheholas) March 18, 2020
There is now a petition to close the Crown Casino during the pandemic, head here to check it out.