Domestic high rollers the new focus for Gold Coast casino

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Queensland casinos probe commences

Gold Coast casino bosses say they are focusing on luring domestic high rollers with Chinese ‘whales’ – the term used for rich gamblers – not expected back in Australia for another year.

The ABC said The Star Gold Coast was busy when it reopened its doors last Friday with another influx expected this Friday when the Queensland border reopens to interstate visitors – with the exception of Victorians, who are dealing with an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Star’s group executive of operations, Geoff Hogg, said hundreds of hotel rooms were booked, restaurants were full, and he was expecting more visitors from Friday.

“It’s a good milestone with the border opening and hopefully getting more demand into the city,” Mr Hogg said.

“We had a couple of restaurants open and The Darling Hotel [during lockdowns], but now to be operating a lot closer to full capacity is fantastic.”

The senior executive of more than 20 years in the casino game said the continued closure of international borders would impact on the group’s bottom line.

“Our international guests make anywhere up to 10 to 12 per cent of our business,” he said.

“It’s millions of dollars in our earnings and that’s quite significant.

“We all understand that part of our market is not going to be there for a lengthy period of time.

“We know that international tourism is certainly not something that we can rely on for at least a year.”

When the international borders do reopen there is no guarantee Chinese tourists will return in the same number after China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an alert in June, reporting a “significant increase” in racist attacks on “Chinese and Asian people” due to COVID-19.

The warning came after China’s state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial.

“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reminds Chinese tourists to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia,” it said.

Tourism Research Australia said more than 1.3 million Chinese – excluding children – visited Australia in 2018 and spent $11.5 billion.

Mr Hogg said Chinese tourists were critical to Australia.

“Anything that holds that back is concerning,” he said.

“When international travel comes back you want all of those markets to be available.

“We have a lot of operators in Queensland, and on the Gold Coast, that heavily rely on those markets so you’d like to think that that isn’t impacted.”

With overseas high rollers locked out of the country for the foreseeable future, Mr Hogg said the focus would be on wealthy Australian gamblers.

“We do have some domestic customers that will be pretty critical and we’ll be trying to focus on them to come to the Gold Coast,” he said.

“For us it’s really about focusing on the markets you can influence.”

Those who do venture onto the casino floor will have to abide by new rules that include a limit of four people per gambling table.

Star lifts virtually all restrictions at casinos

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

Tunf reported earlier this month that 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.

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