Fri, Jul 3, 8:18am by Mia Chapman
Australian casino operator Star Entertainment Group is throwing COVID caution to the wind by lifting most of the restrictions at its flagship Sydney casino.
Calvin Ayre reports that last Wednesday, The Star announced that its eponymous Sydney venue would allow “up to around 5,000 patrons” to access its “casino area” in keeping with New South Wales government guidance of allowing a minimum spacing of four-square-metres per person.
The Sydney casino was ordered to close in mid-March to reduce COVID-19 transmission, was allowed to reopen on a limited basis on June 1, with just 500 members of its loyalty rewards program permitted inside at any one time.
The casino was also restricted to opening only its VIP-focused ‘private gaming rooms’ and a smattering of food and beverage outlets.
The Star has now thrown open its doors to loyalty club members, their guests and “the general public”.
The property has also received permission to operate all electronic gaming machines and table gaming positions, provided appropriate social distancing signage is in place and individuals not from the same household maintain a 1.5 metre separation from each other.
The Star is also reopening its two Queensland properties in Brisbane and the Gold Coast as of today.
The Brisbane casino’s capacity will be capped at 2,300 and the Gold Coast’s at 2,600, in keeping with the Queensland government’s social distancing requirements.
The Star’s chief executive Matt Bekier said the “conservative approach” in reopening The Star Sydney gave the company “further confidence in our operating and safety procedures.”
Mr Bekier said the current stage will allow the company to “welcome back an additional 3,000 employees” after laying off 8,100 staff in March following the shutdown order.
The Star said its Sydney casino’s performance in June had improved throughout the month as New South Wales authorities allowed increased visitor capacity.
Starting June 19, when that cap was raised to 900 guests, average daily slot and table turnover was “comparable with figures from the first half of the financial year, in terms of private gaming room levels.”
The Sydney casino’s new Sovereign room for international VIPs was originally supposed to open in May, but that was impossible due to COVID-19.
The room will now open on July 3, with a formal opening scheduled for August.
The Star’s domestic rival Crown Resorts recently reopened its Crown Perth casino on a limited basis although its Melbourne property remains shuttered until the state of Victoria flattens its COVID-19 curve.
— Trevor & Lilly (@TravConsult) July 2, 2020
Star Entertainment has reached an agreement with the New South Wales government to set the casino tax rates from 2022 until 2041.
Share Cafe reported in June that 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 in June 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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