Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the casino business in Australia and New Zealand has become rather unpredictable. A gambling establishment may reopen for a while, only to close again following a new coronavirus outbreak. To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at the latest developments in Auckland and the Australian Capital Territory.

ACT Gambling Venues Unhappy

Earlier this month, ACT clubs started lobbying the government to allow them to reopen. They pointed to the fact that closures were driving them permanently out of business and/or sending customers elsewhere.

Both arguments certainly held up under scrutiny. A number of ACT clubs have shuttered for good, such as the recent announcement involving Kaleen Eastlake Club. Meanwhile, others are just hanging on by a thread.

Since nearby New South Wales has eased its restrictions, the average pokie there has seen an 89% increase. The NSW city of Queanbeyan has been especially prosperous, with turnover for pokies rising 453%. Much of this increase is attributed to ACT residents driving across the territorial border in search of available poker machines.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith attempted to clarify the government’s position. According to her, “It is about managing the cumulative risk to our community of people coming together, intermingling in situations particularly where there may be alcohol involved, where they may lose some of their inhibitions or may stay in a venue for a length of time.”

ACT Gambling Venues Happy

It turns out that the complaints were effective, as restrictions on ACT gaming venues, strip clubs, and brothels were eased a short time later. Food courts can now offer dine-in service, and there’s no limit to the number of seated patrons in pubs, clubs, and bars.

On August 8th, Casino Canberra resumed operation for the first time in five months. Visitors to the establishment will notice a number of new safeguards in place. These include:

  • There’s a limit of 100 seated customers at any given time.
  • Only one customer may occupy every four square meters.
  • Patrons and staff undergo temperature checks upon arrival.
  • There are a reduced number of players at each table.
  • Chips are cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Special protective screens are present on table games.
  • Patrons cannot physically touch playing cards.
  • Employees clean pokies after each punter leaves.
  • A COVID-19 marshal is present to ensure all rules are followed by staff and patrons.

SkyCity Closure in Auckland

While ACT punters are celebrating the good news, the opposite is true for those living in New Zealand. That’s because the COVID-19 virus has reappeared after 100 days without a documented infection.

SkyCity casino in Auckland,  New Zealand

Government officials reported four new cases, and all are the result of community transmission. Unfortunately, that means more bad news could be on the way in the coming weeks.

Auckland has returned to Stage Three restrictions for a period of three days, and the rest of the nation has moved to a Stage Two alert. For those who are unfamiliar, Stage Three includes the following:

  • Restricted travel to and from Auckland.
  • No more than 10 people can gather together at the same time.
  • Bars and many other businesses must close their doors.

There are more restrictions, of course, but the last one listed above caused SkyCity casino in Auckland to once again close its doors. Both the casino and its entertainment facility will be unavailable during Stage Three, although the hotel will remain open for existing guests.

Fortunately, this only applies to Auckland, so SkyCity locations in Queenstown and Hamilton remain open. However, a few new infections could change that in a hurry.

Additional Reading

For more gambling news tied to COVID-19, please see the following: