Mon, Jun 15, 10:10am by Charlotte Lee
A Tasmanian gambling giant has set a date to reopen its casino as the coronavirus pandemic eases in Australia.
The ABC reports that the Apple Isle’s gambling monopoly holder Federal Group says it will reopen gaming rooms in less than two weeks.
The decision comes a day after Premier Peter Gutwein announced Tasmania was now free of active coronavirus cases, earning the state an early exit from stage two restrictions.
From next Wednesday, pubs and restaurants will be able to host 80 people.
Federal, which owns numerous Tasmanian hotels and hospitality businesses, closed its pub and casino operations in March as part of the coronavirus shutdown, with the loss of 1,500 jobs.
Company spokesman Daniel Hanna said: “we’ve been waiting for this for some time and it’s good to get businesses open and good to get our people back and working again.”
From June 26, the group will begin a staged return to business, including “practices around social distancing,” Mr Hanna said.
“There will be a very big investment in cleaning and hygiene with all of our surfaces and staff.”
“I think customers and locals moving forward are looking for that, they want to come out and enjoy hospitality environments again but they want to feel safe, they want to make sure that businesses have put some investment into thinking about those things.”
Federal, which operates the Wrest Point and Country Club casinos, will delay opening their “tourism-focused businesses” until “the borders are open”, Mr Hanna said.
“I think it would be good to have a date, that’s certainly when a lot of our tourism businesses would be looking to reopen again is as soon as the borders are open and we’ve got flights coming in and out of Hobart and Launceston again,” he said.
“At the moment, we’re working towards that mid to late July timeframe and it will be really nice to have a confirmed date so that we can open up bookings and we can be there as an option when people from interstate who have been craving a Tasmanian holiday are able to book one.”
Casino giant sets date for reopening, but anti-pokies camp happier if machines stay off. After a shutdown resulting in 1,500 job losses, Tasmania's casino giant Federal Group sets a date for reopening, but anti-pokies campaigners argue… By Kate Ainsworth https://t.co/qv6F2sJ4iO
— Fake Peter Gee (@PeterGeeABC) June 13, 2020
Glenorchy mayor Kristie Johnston – whose municipality includes an area known as “the golden mile” for its proliferation of gaming venues – said her constituents had saved millions of dollars during the three-month closure of gaming in the state.
“For the last three months we have seen $5 million in the Glenorchy community saved from going down the throats of pokie machines,” she said.
“Instead, that $5 million has been spent putting food on the tables of Glenorchy families, it’s been spent on rent, it’s been spent on local businesses supporting local families.”
It is not just Glenorchy where the savings have added up, anti-gambling advocates argue.
Independent MLC Meg Webb said $500,000 had been saved every day since the restrictions came into effect.
“That’s money that’s been available for Tassie families and households, and it’s also been available to other Tassie businesses really struggling to stay afloat.”
Ms Webb said she was concerned that Tasmania could follow what’s happened in other states after machines are turned back on.
“We can look at NSW, they’ve had one week of pokie machines being switched back on and losses have skyrocketed well above pre-COVID levels,” she said.
“That’s a devastating outcome for people who are being harmed, but it’s also devastating for every other small business in that community, specially hospitality businesses.”
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