Australian casino operator Crown Resorts was forced to close temporarily the main gaming floor at its flagship casino in Melbourne after it was stripped of its exemption from rules adopted across the state of Victoria to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
While many non-essential business across Victoria were ordered to shutter in the face of the global Covid-19 crisis, Crown was granted by the state’s government an exemption from social distancing rules. The move caused quite the controversy.
Crown’s Melbourne casino was allowed to continue to operate as long as it made sure to limit indoor gatherings to no more than 100 people. The major casino deactivated every second slot machine (or poker machine as they are called Down Under) and limited attendance numbers at its restaurants, bars, and other facilities to avoid large gatherings of people.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Saturday that Crown’s exemption has been revoked and the casino was ordered to close its main gaming floor. The state’s top official said that they were not confident that “the measures that were in place and were appropriate are appropriate now.”
Only the main gaming floor at Crown Melbourne would close temporarily. Smaller gambling rooms will remain open, it became known.
Gambling Amid Pandemic
Crown’s exemption from the social distancing rules implemented across Victoria was heavily protested by health experts who argued that the Melbourne casino should have been ordered to play by the same rules as everyone else as Victoria, just as the rest of the world, struggles to curb the spread of the dangerous virus that has gripped every single contour of society.
Pressure over Crown keeping its Melbourne casino open escalated this week after widespread closures of gambling facilities were announced all over the world, including Las Vegas.
Many casino operators running properties on the Las Vegas Strip, such as Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International, announced earlier this week that they would close these in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Later, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all gaming properties across the state as part of a larger package of measures aiming to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Australian public health officials have been urging governments in every state and territory to take specific measures addressing gambling establishments that have poker machines as these often attract older people who are considered to be at a greater risk from Covid-19.
The closure of Crown Melbourne is expected to have a huge impact on Victoria’s economy as the hotel and casino complex is the state’s largest private-sector, single-site employer with more than 12,500 employees.
Crown is also a big revenue contributor. The property paid more than A$238 million in taxes to Victoria in the last financial year.
The number of coronavirus cases in Victoria reached 229 today after 51 new cases were recorded overnight. Nationwide, the tally of Covid-19 cases reached 1,072 on Saturday.