Aussie gambling operators hit hard

by Noah Taylor Last Updated

Australia’s gambling operators are in full damage control mode after the government ordered their venues to close for up to six months to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Calvin Ayre reports that on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered all bars, restaurants, clubs and casinos to close their doors by noon on Monday.

The closure, which is intended to minimise further spread of the virus, is set to last “at least six months” dealing a possibly mortal blow to the nation’s casino firms.

Crown Resorts, which was forced to close its Melbourne casino’s main gaming floor this weekend after losing its exemption from coronavirus-related containment measures, said Monday that its hotels would continue to operate “in a reduced capacity” but all other activities were effectively toast.

Crown suspended trading in its shares last weekend ahead of its Melbourne announcement, a move that was followed on Monday by rival The Star Entertainment Group, which said its trading halt would last until Wednesday.

Reports emerged this weekend that customers at The Star’s Sydney casino weren’t abiding by the company’s stated social distancing policies.

SkyCity Entertainment Group, the New Zealand based operator that runs a casino in Adelaide, announced that it was closing that venue and withdrawing its earnings guidance for the current fiscal year based on “uncertainty as to the duration of the closure.”

Toll of TAB shutdown unknown

Aussie lottery and betting operator Tabcorp Holdings issued its own announcement acknowledging the shutdown of hotels and clubs, which will impact its TAB betting agencies in those venues.

However, Tabcorp noted that convenience stores and other outlets from which it sells its lottery products appear likely to remain open, at least for the time being.

While Tabcorp said it hopes customers will now flock to its digital channels, the shutdown of major sports events means digital bettors don’t have much to wager on.

On Monday, both the AFL and NRL announced the suspension of their current seasons at the government’s direction.

Tabcorp noted that horse and greyhound racing was still going on behind closed doors but “their ongoing status may require further clarification from relevant state governments.”

Tabcorp said the full impact of its virus-related adjustments is unknown and thus it wasn’t in a position to offer specific guidance on its future earnings.

Tassie pokies owners still need to pay up

Tasmania’s pub and club owners are protesting the fact they’ve been asked to continue making rental payments on their video poker machines, despite the fact that the pubs are now closed and the machines not used.

The Federal Group, which holds a monopoly on pokies in Tasmania, had offered to forgive leaseholders’ charges on Keno operations but pokies rent would still need to be paid “due to an ongoing commitment to pay these lease agreements with banks.”

Macau could face multi billion dollar deficit

Macau could face a deficit of $5.99 billion in 2020, according to the University of Macau Chair Professor in Accounting and Finance Jean Chen.

Calvin Ayre reported earlier this month that her assessment matches one previously provided by Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong last week.

This, of course, is due to decreases in revenue at casino concessionaires, who have already seen sharp declines in gross gaming revenues.

To alleviate the economic impact of this downturn, it’s expected the government will have to step up and support struggling businesses.

In a statement provided by the economist, she explained:

“This kind of dramatic change due to unexpected emergency is not necessarily leading to a long-term drop in revenue.

“A temporary deficit is normal for any country suffering from some dramatic events.

“A careful cost benefit analysis is necessary rather than one single indicator.”

Secretary Lei has already been taking steps to try to assist the local economy.

In January, before the full impact of Covid-19 was felt, he ordered that the annual check by brought forward into April to help Macau recover from the impact of the outbreak.

Each permanent resident would receive a check in the amount of $1250, while non-permanent residents will receive $750.

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