Shareholders in Crown Resorts today received some positive news. The Victorian government gave the green light to reopen Crown’s Melbourne casino, albeit with strict guidelines in place.

Crown closed all its properties, including its flagship casino and hotel in Melbourne, in March. Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered all non-essential businesses to close as Australia struggled to control the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Most casinos and hotels re-opened to the public in June but the doors of Crown Melbourne remained firmly shut. This is because the state of Victoria was still in the grip of the coronavirus. It left the government with no choice but to impose Stage 3 lockdown procedures in the state.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews imposed a six-week lockdown on his state. The six-week deadline came and went and Crown Melbourne remained under lock and key. That is changing with Victoria’s Government allowing Crown to open its flagship venue.

Strict Rules Allow Crown Melbourne to Re-Open

Crown can only open if it follows some very strict guidelines. These include a limited number of customers and gaming machines among others.

  • Restrict customers to 10 designated VIP areas
  • A maximum capacity of 10 customers per designated area
  • A complete blanket ban on smoking
  • Customers only permitted 90-minutes of gambling per day
  • A COVID Marshal for each VIP area
  • Enhanced hygiene protocols

Limiting the number of customers isn’t ideal for Crown but it is better than remaining closed. It remains to be seen, however, if these strict restrictions generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile.

Pokies and other electronic games will operate at 50% capacity, with every other machine switched off. Crown was already doing this before the original lockdown, so that isn’t a major issue.

Ken Barton is the Chief Executive Officer for Crown. He is naturally delighted to re-open Melbourne.

“We have been working for some time with the Victorian Government and health authorities to determine how we can safely re-open Crown Melbourne and have developed extensive physical distancing and hygiene measures to allow re-opening in a safe manner. We are pleased to be able to commence the process of welcoming back our employees and customers to Crown Melbourne.

Much Needed Positivity

Reduced capacity and complying to strict rules aren’t ideal for Crown, but they’ll take any positivity they can at the moment. Anything that detracts from the negative press and black cloud hovering over the company is welcomed.

Crown lost two of its long-serving directors shortly after the company’s latest AGM. John Alexander and Professor John Harvarth both retired from Crown. Three other directors’ jobs were on the line, but James Packer’s immense voting power earned them a reprieve.

Speaking of Packer, he did himself and Crown no favours at all during the inquiry. The inquiry into Crown’s suitability for a Syndey casino licence are not fans of Packer. Not in the slightest.

It heard Packer received secret financial forecasts before attempting to sell some of his Crown stock. Packer intended to sell 19.9% of his stock to Melco Resorts for $1.76 billion. That sale prompted the inquiry in the first place. You can read more about that here.

Adam Bell, SC, told the inquiry Packer is the common theme when it comes to Crown negativity. He also said Crown isn’t suitable for a casino licence in Sydney, but that’s only his opinion. The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority have the final say on that matter.

That statement put the future of Crown’s yet-to-open Barangaroo complex at risk. It is due to open in December, but Crown may not receive a gaming licence.

Campaigners Want Crown To Lose All Licences

Anti-gambling campaigners want Crown to lose its Melbourne and Perth licenses, even if only temporarily. Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie argued that very point.

“If Crown is not fit and proper to hold a casino licence in NSW, how can Crown be trusted to run a casino anywhere in Australia? The evidence used to recommend against the NSW casino licence was based on how Crown currently runs Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.”

Crown Melbourne is re-opening, however. It is your guess how long it remains so.