Australian casino Crown Resorts is switching off half its pokies machines and electronic gaming tables amid coronavirus fears. Australia’s biggest casino operator made the move to enforce social and physical distancing of its customers.

Health officials made the suggestion to Crown’s senior management team and they acted swiftly. Switching off half of its pokies machines seems like a drastic measure, but it is better than completely closing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison denies there is no need to implement a European-style lockdown, but is recommending a number of measures to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. At least 565 Australians have contracted the virus and six people have died.

Europe is going into meltdown with sporting events and concerts postponed or cancelled. Many countries have banned public gatherings ranging from 100 to 1,000 people. The Australian government has banned all “non-essential” gatherings of more than 500 people.

Crown has restricted the use of its conference and banqueting facilities at its Melbourne and Perth properties. Only groups of 450 people or less can use these facilities. Star set its limit to exactly 500 people.

The Big Pokies Machine Switch Off

Pokies machines create masses of revenue for all casino, not only those located in Australia. Star and Crown have more than 4,000 pokies machines between them, but only 2,000 are powered up right now.

The idea behind switching off pokies machines is simple: it creates physical distance between customers.

COVID-19 is highly contagious and its spread is showing no signs of slowing down. Its rate if increasing if anything.

Major sporting events around the world have fallen victim to the COVID-19 virus. Organisers recently pulled the plug on the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. The English Premier League, a major source of revenue for Australian bookmakers, is postponed until at least April 4th.

Even further afield, the current NBA season is postponed indefinitely while the upcoming NFL season is delayed.

There are calls to completely close casinos due to coronavirus fears. Shutting off 50% of the pokies machines is seen as a compromise between Crown, Star, and the Australian government.

Both Crown and Star have already seen massive revenue hits since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Extremely rich Chinese gamblers, the company’s VIPs, spend tens of billions of dollars annually. They’ve either not travelled to Australia as much since CVID-19 appeared, or have visited but not spent anywhere near as much money as usual.

This led to the share prices of Crown and Star plummeting because revenues are severely short of previous totals. Neither company can afford to close their properties, turning off half their pokies machines is the best we’ll get.

How Are Other Countries Reacting?

Nevada, USA, home to gambling haven Las Vegas, ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling operations for 30-days. This enforced closure came into effect at midnight on March 18th. Furthermore, non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants, must close from Wednesday. It’s the first time the pokies machines there have been turned off.

It is an unprecedented step and one that casts serious doubt on the 2020 World Series of Poker.

Elsewhere, mostly in Europe, countries are closing their borders. Governments have also banned all non-essential travel.

Anyone who displays symptoms of suffering from coronavirus is placed in self-isolation. They stay indoors for 14-days, which is the incubation period of COVID-19.

Help Prevent The Spread of COVID-19

There are steps you can take to help stop the spread of the virus. You should be doing these things anyway.

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20-seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching your hands and face, especially with unwashed hands
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who appear sick
  • Avoid public places if you, yourself, are sick
  • Frequently clean and disinfect items and surfaces you regularly touch
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and discard the tissue in the trash