- Crown Casino Perth has significantly reduced operations due to a COVID-19 related lockdown.
- All gaming and hospitality operations have been suspended with only limited hotel operations continuing.
- Crown Perth was closed for over three months last year at the height of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
The COVID-19 pandemic has totally disrupted life all around the world for over a year now. Perhaps the most inexplicable reality of the pandemic has been the turnaround in fortune of the United States. The initial American response to the pandemic made the country an international laughing stock and it never really got better. The politicization of a public health emergency was bizarre but as a result mask, wearing became a partisan issue. As the rest of the world dealt with COVID-19 with varying degrees of success the US set dubious records in just about every metric quantifying infection and death.
All along the expectation has been that life would not get back to some semblance of normalcy until a vaccine was available and that’s exactly what is happening–at least in some countries. To the surprise of everyone–in particularly, those of us who live here–the US has gone from the bottom of the table to the top in their efforts to deal with COVID-19. The vaccination effort has been especially effective in the US where as of today 42% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In numerical terms, the performance is even more impressive as 140.97 million Americans have received at least one dose. As of April 26, 2021 the US has averaged 2.74 million doses per day. With an increasing number of Americans getting vaccinated, the US infection metrics have plummeted. At one point, the US had among the highest infection rates in the world based on daily new cases per 100,000 people. Today, the US is #62 with 17.6 daily new cases per 100,000 people. By way of comparison, the worst infection rate is in Cyprus (99.3 new cases per 100,000 people) and 41 countries have a rate in excess of 25 cases per 100K people.
Although President Joe Biden is taking the credit for the success of the US vaccine effort–and to be sure, his response has been better than the bumbling of the previous president by default–the reality is that he has little to do with it. Many of the socioeconomic elements in the US that were working against them in the early days of the pandemic are now precisely the reasons that their vaccination effort has been such a success. In particular, the involvement of the private sector has been key. All of the major drugstore chains have been providing vaccine at their stores including Walgreens (9,323 stores), CVS (9,900 stores) and WalMart (4,865 stores). In many European countries, the private sector is not involved at all.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA SUFFERS A NEW OUTBREAK
Australia has been one of the more interesting countries to follow during the pandemic. In theory, they have a lot working for them in terms of their ability to ‘quarantine’ the entire country. They’re remotely located, surrounded by water and accessible only by ship or air. That makes it easy to lock down their borders to travelers from higher risk areas. Statistically speaking, they’re in great shape ranking at #183 on the risk level table with just 0.1 new case per 100,000 residents per day. The concern, however, is that the entire success of their mitigation effort is predicated on keeping infected citizens quarantine and at risk travelers out of the country. What would be a negligible infection rate in many countries has the potential for disaster in Australia.
Unfortunately, this ‘worst case scenario’ has become a reality. Several states and cities in Australia have experienced a new outbreak of cases. One problematic area is Western Australia. A new three-day lockdown was implemented after a man who had been in hotel quarantine in Perth later tested positive upon returning home to Melbourne, Victoria. It is believed the man, who had visited a number of locations across Perth upon completing his stay in quarantine, acquired the disease from an infectious family quarantining in the same hotel. There are two other active COVID-19 cases in Western Australia–all from travelers returning from overseas.
As a result of the new lockdown, Australia’s largest gaming company has been forced to close their doors once again. Crown Resorts Limited (ASX: CWN) has been forced to put their Perth gaming property into a de facto lockdown once again. The Crown Perth has shut down all gaming and hospitality operations at the 1,196 room resort. The hotel remains open in a limited capacity with takeout and delivery food service for guests. The pop up announcement below is on the main page of the Crown Perth website:
On Monday, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan announced that the current lockdown would be lifted gradually beginning on Tuesday. Some restrictions will remain in place until Saturday, May 1 and as a result gaming and hospitality at the Crown Perth property will remain closed until then.
AUSTRALIA’S BUNGLED VACCINE ROLLOUT
Although as of today there have been no additional new cases reported in Western Australia save the previously mentioned three the future remains tenuous–and particular for ‘non-essential’ businesses like casinos. The vaccination rate in Australia is negligible at best. Just 0.6% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and the number that are fully vaccinated is statistically insignificant to the point that no data is being registered. Australia’s paltry 0.6% vaccination rate is well off the pace:
Here’s another chart comparing Australia with several other major tourism and gaming destinations:
This bar graph clearly illustrates Australia’s almost non-existent vaccination rate:
The entire international gaming industry endured a tough 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Crown Resorts is no exception. The company suspended operations at Crown Perth and Crown Melbourne on March 23, 2020. Crown Perth reopened on June 27 after a closure of more than three months. Crown Melbourne reopened in phases with the main gaming floor not reopening until November 25, 2020–and then with significant capacity restrictions.
It’s unclear what Australia’s vaccine strategy actually is. The current ‘party line’ is that the process is proceeding slowly due to concerns over rare blood clotting side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine. The result is that Australia’s vaccination goals will likely be delayed for months and the country’s border closed well into 2022. The AstraZeneca vaccine has become a convenient scapegoat for countries struggling to scale up vaccinations—particularly members of the European Union. The risk factors for the blood clotting side effect have been identified but the hand wringing among many countries is borderline absurd given that they occur in approximately 0.000006% of all cases. As a comparison, side effects from the flu shot are also rare but happen with greater frequency than the blood clot issue. Until Australia gets their act together relative to vaccination the country’s gaming industry will be at risk from additional shutdowns due to even minor COVID-19 outbreaks.