Australia has had to deal with the coronavirus like most other countries. However, the main difference is that we’ve managed to avoid a vast wave of outbreaks. The curve has definitely been flattened, and talks are underway about possibly opening casinos back up in the next few months.

How Australia Thwarted the Coronavirus

While numerous nations have been ravaged by COVID-19, Australia has been relatively unscathed. So how did an entire nation accomplish such a feat? Well, here are some of the most notable preventative actions taken during the pandemic.

  • On January 23rd, flights coming in from Wuhan, China were restricted. However, the first reported case ended up being a Wuhan citizen who arrived on a flight from elsewhere in China.
  • On February 1st, Prime Minister Morrison banned all inbound flights from China. Two days later, he closed Australia’s borders to all Chinese nationals.
  • The nation announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package on March 12th.
  • By the second week of March, Australia had also banned travelers from Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
  • On March 15th, it was announced that all travelers arriving in or returning to Australia would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Cruise ships were prohibited from docking in any Australian port.
  • On March 23rd, the government closed all pubs, clubs, casinos, hotels, and entertainment venues.
  • As of March 29th, public gatherings were limited to no more than two people. People were only allowed to leave their homes for work, shopping, medical reasons, and exercise. Unlike some other nations, the population quickly adapted to these guidelines.

There were, of course, other measures taken, but the above were some of the most effective. The highest number of cases per day was 424. By April 28th, this number had dropped to only 18. No matter how you look at it, that’s pretty impressive.

A Meeting of the Minds

Because of these successful efforts, discussions are now turning to the inevitable re-opening of casinos and other gambling-related businesses. In fact, the government recently organized a group to discuss the matter. Here are some of those with representatives in attendance:

  • Crown Casino
  • Various Pubs
  • ALH, the Pokie Sector of Woolworths
  • Various Community Clubs
  • Assorted Pokie Companies
  • Australian Hotels Association
  • Tabcorp

This task force is working with the Department of Justice to answer two key questions. First, when would it be appropriate for gambling venues to commence operation? Second, what safeguards need to be put in place once business resumes?

While these meetings have been productive, participants have agreed that it’s best to err on the side of caution. For this reason, it will likely be July or August before punters will once again be able to play at pubs or casinos. Marlene Kairouz, State Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, has been among the more optimistic, pointing to an unspecified date in late July.

Poker player practices safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

The New Normal for Gambling Venues

When gaming facilities are operational again, customers are likely to notice some changes. Nothing has been etched in stone just yet, but the following have received the most attention.

  • Before a customer can enter a casino, club or pub, they’ll have their temperature taken. If they have a fever, they’ll be denied access.
  • In order to promote social distancing, every second gaming machine will be turned off and have its stool removed.
  • Also, patrons may be required to keep 1.5 metres between them at all times.
  • A maximum of four players will be allowed at table games, and each must keep an empty seat between them.
  • Facilities may be limited to one person for every four square metres on their gaming floor.
  • Customers may be required to wear a mask and/or gloves, but this is far from definite at this stage.

Online Gambling Boom

While casino and club owners are eager to get back to business, the online gaming industry is in no hurry. That’s because their coffers are running over, with an average increase in deposits estimated at 67%. In fact, Google searches for terms like “online casinos” and “online poker” have quadrupled over the last six weeks.

This presents a major concern for land-based casino operators. Once the pandemic has run its course, will customers return or opt for the convenience of a virtual pokie?

Additional Reading

If you’d like to read about more news from the world of Aussie gambling, please take a look at the following: