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Australia closes casinos to slow Covid-19

| By Daniel O'Boyle

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered casinos in the country to close in order to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

After a meeting with state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers on 22 March, Morrison agreed to put in place “more widespread restrictions” regarding social gatherings. These include the closure of casinos, pubs, hotels and entertainment venues.

The Prime Minister said that Australians should expect the closures to last for six months.

In addition, the 2020 Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) seasons, both previously set to be played behind closed doors, have now been suspended indefinitely. Horse and greyhound racing are currently set to continue behind closed doors.

Tabcorp, Australia’s largest gambling operator, said that the closure of hotels and pubs – where it hosts gaming machines – will adversely affect its revenues. In addition, it said the order will potentially lead to the closure of its TAB betting shops.

However, convenience stores and other sellers of Tabcorp’s lottery products are not covered by the measures and will remain open.

“The health and safety of our people, our partners and the community are our priority at this point in time,” said Tabcorp managing director and chief executive David Attenborough. “We are working with governments, regulators, and our venue and racing industry partners to manage the impact on them, our customers and our businesses during this unprecedented period.”

“We recognise how difficult this situation is for our people, our industry partners and the community, and we are committed to using the strength of our business model and our enduring partnerships to come through this stronger, together.”

The operator said that revenue from licensed venues, TAB agencies and on-course outlets accounted for around 28% of revenue, while sports betting – including from the aforementioned outlets – contributed 4%.

Tabcorp said it was not currently in a position to provide specific guidance on earnings or the financial impact of the virus.

In addition, Tabcorp said it was reducing operating and capital expenditure “where it reasonably can,” encouraging retail customers to use digital alternatives and promoting other unaffected products.

“We have implemented our business continuity plans and have maintained continuity of service, even with the vast majority of our employees now operating remotely,” Attenborough said. “Despite the impact of these changes in licensed venues and, potentially, TAB agencies, we continue to offer customers wagering & media and keno products through our digital channels.”

Australia joins the United Kingdom, whose Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of all casinos and betting shops on 20 March.

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