Crown Melbourne closes its doors again

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Shareholders have their say at Crown?s AGM

Melbourne’s Crown Casino will be closed for another six weeks as new coronavirus cases spike in the city.

Casino.org reports that from July 8 and running for at least six weeks, 5.2 million Victorians will be required to stay home – four exceptions being to shop for food and essential goods, to care for the elderly or those in need, outdoor exercise, or for work or study if it cannot be done from home.

As a result, Crown’s flagship property will remain closed until further notice.

The integrated casino resort suspended operations on March 23.

Melbourne restaurants, including those within the Crown complex began reopening on June 1 for in-person dining, but will now be forced to revert to only offering delivery and take away.

Mr Andrews said public health officials recommended the reimposition of a lockdown following then state experiencing 191 new COVID-19 cases in a single 24-hour period – the state’s highest one day total during the pandemic.

“We know we are on the cusp of something very, very bad,” he said.

“It is simply impossible when case rates are at this level to suppress and contain this virus without taking significant steps.”

Crown’s other casino resort in Perth reopened on June 27.

Star Entertainment, another Australian operator, recommenced operations last week at its properties in Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast.

The Perth casino has about 350 table games and 2000 electronic gaming machines.

The Melbourne casino has about 400 tables and 2500 machines.

Crown Melbourne is Australia’s largest casino and Crown Resorts derives the majority of its revenue from the property.

During the company’s 2019 fiscal year, Crown Resorts reported gross gaming revenue of A$3.14 billion.

Crown Melbourne was responsible for $1.5 billion or 68.5 per cent.

“Crown’s first priority is the health and safety of its employees, guests and the community,” the company said.

In June, it secured $700 million in loans.

“It means we can sustain ourselves for quite a while, irrespective of what goes on,” Crown Resorts chief executive Ken Barton said.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has closed down her state’s border with Victoria in response to the unfolding issue in the southern state.

Unlike in other parts of Australia where new cases have been identified, Victoria’s latest patients have become infected via community transmission.

Elsewhere in Australia, patients were traced to contracting the virus overseas.

“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“It’s a new part of the pandemic, and as such, it requires a new type of response.”

One bit of good news for Crown is that construction continues on its $1.5 billion casino resort in Sydney.

The Australian casino giant remains under an inquiry in New South Wales where officials are determining whether the company’s alleged ties to organised crime and a failure to prevent money laundering should be grounds to revoke its gaming licence.

China’s directive could hurt Crown Sydney

The Chinese government directive urging its citizens not to travel to Australia threatens to make Crown’s under construction $2.2 billion casino complex on Sydney Harbour a “white elephant”, according to industry experts.

The Guardian reported in June the project can no longer rely on income from high-roller gamblers from China once it opens, who were initially central to its business model.

Gambling academics and city planners have expressed concern over the future of Crown’s Sydney casino at Barangaroo as a result of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s warning to Chinese residents “to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia” issued last week, citing a spike in racism during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior gaming industry advisers said the Chinese government had previously been successful in directing where Chinese citizens gamble, noting Macau, and while most Australian casinos will suffer from last week’s travel warning, it appears Crown’s planned Sydney venture will be impacted most directly.

Crown, whose ownership and allegations of high-roller junkets and money laundering are the subject of a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry and other planned inquiries – has attracted controversy over plan to target VIP players at the 75-floor tower that will also include 82 luxury apartments and a six-star hotel, due to open in December, ahead of the casino’s opening in early 2021.

However, the future revenue stream of the building, which was controversially approved for the city’s second casino licence in 2013, has been throw into question after a drop in high rollers in recent years.

This has prompted industry observers to question the viability of the Crown Sydney project relying solely on foreign high rollers, and while Crown has not applied for poker machines – considered a reliable income source for casinos – its future rival Star City recently secured a 21-year exclusivity deal with the New South Wales government to be the only Sydney casino with poker machines.

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