Pubs, clubs, and Crown Casino could reopen their doors as early as July according to plans from a secret taskforce. The government-appointed taskforce is developing plans to show to the national cabinet.
The group has met several times during the past few weeks and plans are underway to reopen venues. Crown Casino, pub owners, community clubs, and major pokies operators make up the group.
March saw the Department of Justice create the task force with the aim to reopen the leisure industry. Reports suggest the group is close to finalising a set of virus-proofing measure allowing venues to reopen.
These measures include pubs operating more like cafes, with table service instead of self-service at the bar. Dining room capacities will be slashed, live mosh pits made a thing of the past. Finally, every second pokies machine is set to be switched off.
Could Crown Casino Reopen at 50% Capacity?
That last point in particularly interesting because Crown Casino already tried implementing it. Crown turned off half its poker machines in mid-March in a big to stay open. Star Entertainment Group followed Crown’s lead and switched off 50% of its machines.
There are more than 4,000 pokies housed between Crown and The Star. Powering down half those machines creates a physical distance between gamblers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison seemed happy with these measures, at least at the time. Morrison later implemented a full lockdown of leisure venues, forcing casinos to completely stop gambling operations.
There are now more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. More than 240,000 deaths are directly linked to the virus. Australia has not suffered as badly as many other countries. “Only” 6,783 confirmed cases are known and 93 deaths. Compare this to the United Kingdom which has 177,500 cashes and 27,500 COVID-19 related fatalities.
Perhaps Morrison is prepared to ease Australia’s lockdown and allow businesses to reopen? Morrison announced the national cabinet is reviewing all restrictions on May 8. He, however, declined to confirm if licensed venues will reopen earlier than expected.
Venues Could Reopen In July
Marlene Kairouz, the state Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, spoke to the group on Thursday. She indicated venues could reopen by late July, although that would be the earliest.
Kairouz addresses representatives from Crown Casino, Tabcorp, Woolworths’ pokies arm ALH, Community Clubs Victoria, the RSL, and Australian Hotels Association. This group of industry giants learned it is “extremely unlikely venues will reopen in June”. The group is hoping to reopen in late July.
The COVID-19 related closures have crippled pubs, clubs and Australia’s casinos. The effect on the wider economy has also been extremely damaging. Many community sporting clubs face financial ruin as they are reliant on patrons purchasing food and drink.
Casinos and their staff are also suffering. Crown stood down 95% of its workforce, or 11,500 workers, in a cost-cutting measure. The Star and Tabcorp are just two other employers to drastically reduce staffing levels.
What Can The Gaming Industry Do?
A source from the taskforce suggests an indoor limit of one person every four square meters will suffice. It also suggests a one to 1.5-meter distance between people is adequate. These are the measures Crown and The Star put in place before Morrison forced full closures on March 22.
Patrons will have their temperature taken at casino’s entrances, said the group. Plastic screens are being erected to separate dealers, croupiers, patrons, and staff.
Practices that promote communal gatherings are an issue. This is why plans to turn off every second gaming machine and remove excess tables and stools are suggested. Plans to scrap shared coin buckets are in place.
Venues such as Crown rely on shared gaming tables, including blackjack and roulette. These tables draw in groups who use shared cash and chips. Operating at 50% capacity and being able to reopen is better than remaining closed it seems.