Star lifts virtually all restrictions at casinos

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
New entrance for Star Sydney

Star Entertainment Group has lifted almost all restrictions related to the new COVID-19 pandemic at its largest casino in Sydney.

Tunf reports the Australian casino operator announced this week that it will serve up to 5,000 customers at its New South Wales casino.

It also indicated that it will follow the protocols dictated by local authorities to maintain a minimum space of four square metres per person.

The Sydney casino was reopened on a limited basis on June 1 after being closed since mid-march to reduce the spread of the virus.

It could only gather up to 500 members of its loyalty rewards program when it initially reopened.

Since then, the casino has only operated its ‘private gaming rooms’ focused on VIP customers as well as various food and beverage outlets.

From now on, The Star will cater to loyalty club members, their special guests and the general public.

Table game stalls and electronic gaming machines may also operate on the property, respecting the distance requirements.

The Star’s two Queensland properties reopened on Friday in Gold Coast and Brisbane.

The Brisbane casino now boasts a maximum capacity of 2,300 people, while the Gold Coast casino can cater for 2,600 people.

According to Star’s chief executive Matt Bekier, the “conservative approach” employed in the reopening of The Star Sydney gave the company “more confidence in our safety and operating procedures.”

Mr Bekier noted the company will now be able to “welcome approximately 3,000 additional employees.”

After the closing order issued in March, the company laid off 8,100 employees.

Sydney casino performance increased significantly after New South Wales authorities allowed The Star to serve more customers.

Since June 19, the limit has been raised to 900 guests, so on average the daily rotation of tables and slot machines was “comparable to the levels of the private 1H FY2020 arcade.

Likewise, the average expenditure per person was “materially higher” compared to the average for the property during the first half of the first semester.

However, the recorded H1 VIP win rate was the lowest in the company’s history.

The overall performance of the casino was “significantly lower than normal levels given the operating restrictions.”

The new Sovereign room for international VIPs at the Sydney casino was originally believed to be ready to open in May, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented this.

Its opening was rescheduled for July 3 and a formal opening in August.

Although Australia recently said it will likely keep its borders closed until 2021 for international travellers.

Star inks agreement to be the only NSW casino with pokies

Star Entertainment has reached an agreement with the New South Wales government to set the casino tax rates from 2022 until 2041.

Share Cafe reports Star Entertainment is to remain the sole casino with pokies machines in New South Wales during this time, unless compensated.

Credit Suisse suggests this is positive for the company’s earnings.

The casino group hasn’t let the coronavirus pandemic dampen its project pipeline.

Casino Aus reported last month that the company executed its funding agreements with its project partners, securing $1.6 billion in debt funding, the first of it to be used next month.

The Star did this in joint partnership with David Chiu’s Far East Consortium and Henry Cheong’s Chow Tai Fook Enterprises.

The terms of the agreement were determined prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, which means the financials and terms reflect the market conditions at the time.

All necessary conditions for the funding, including the final approval of the Queensland government, should be completed next month.

Once complete, the joint partnership will take the first draw-down on the finding, the rest remaining for construction that is set to begin in early 2021.

In total, the group’s funding is a 5.5-year agreement with three years of operations allowed before refinancing.

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