Crown Melbourne shuts as Victorians in lockdown

By Ethan Anderson Updated
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A fresh coronavirus outbreak has closed the doors on Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino once again.

Inside Asian Gaming reports that Crown Melbourne was forced to suspend gaming operations for the third time in a year as Victoria entered a seven-day lockdown.

A cluster of new COVID-19 cases linked to a hotel quarantine breach saw the government announce that the state would go into lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave their homes for food and supplies, essential work, exercise with one other period or to get vaccinated.

Gatherings of any sort are banned, while restaurants, pubs and cafes are restricted to takeaway service only.

Hotels, clubs and casinos must close, with Crown issuing a statement confirming that gaming activities would cease once again.

Hotel accommodation will continue to be provided for approved purposes, while Crown said it will continue to pay employees’ rostered hours and salaries during the period.

“Crown Melbourne will continue to work closely with the government and health authorities in Victoria and will respond to measures taken in relation to COVID-19,” the company said.

Crown had closed its Melbourne casino for almost eight months in 2020, from late March to mid-November, as Victoria endured Australia’s worst COVID-19 outbreak to date.

Smoking banned in Crown’s Melbourne VIP rooms

Complaints from Crown Melbourne workers in late 2020 saw the casino operator ban smoking in VIP gaming rooms.

Citing concerns about catching COVID-19 from smokers coughing and exhaling in their faces as they dealt cards, the employees were granted their wish.

A Crown spokesperson said: “We will ask customers to step outside to smoke as part of Crown’s cautious and gradual progression towards COVID normal.”

“We will reassess this again with the benefit of revised government directions.”

In October, Star Entertainment Group, owners of Treasury Casino and Star Casino on the Gold Coast and in Sydney moved to ban indoor smoking at its venues by 2023.

Only the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania have banned smoking in all enclosed areas of casinos, including high roller rooms.

Dealers at Crown hope the company follows suit.

Steven, an experienced dealer who did not wish to use his real name over fear of losing his job, had been begging Crown to ban indoor smoking over fear of inhaling virus-infected droplets while working.

“It makes me feel really uncomfortable,” he said.

“My biggest fear is we reopen in the next couple of days and then someone contracts COVID at Crown, the whole complex is shutdown again and that leads to another shutdown in the state.”

Dealer expressed fear about virus risk from smoking in VIP room

Under the exemption, suspended on Monday night, gamblers were allowed to sit 1.2 metres from Steven and remove their face masks to drink and smoke.

Luke, another dealer who wishes to remain anonymous, was particularly worried about smokers exhaling on him at work because he lives with an elderly relative.

“I don’t want to be the person who comes home and kills my family member by just going to work,” he said.

Both Steven and Luke said they were disappointed the Premier and the Department of Health and Human Services had initially allowed indoor smoking to continue at Crown during the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of behind the scenes wheeling and dealing here that’s at the heart of all this,” Steven said.

“Crown has tremendous political power because of the revenues that flow from the casino into government coffers.”

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