Crown Resorts enforces social distancing at Melbourne casino in light of coronavirus outbreak

Monday 16th March 2020

Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) has announced social distancing measures being implemented at its Crown Melbourne casino complex in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

From today, the James Packer-backed gaming giant will deactivate every second gaming machine and electronic table game.

It will also enforce distancing at seated table games including no standing players, while stand-up table games will be restricted to five players, the company stated.

In addition, food and beverage, banqueting and conference facilities will be capped at 450 patrons with a "prescribed maximum density".

Crown's announcement comes after 13 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed by Victorian health authorities on Sunday, lifting the state's total cases to 57 and Australia's tally to 298.

It also follows the federal government's ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people and the blanket requirement of all travellers entering Australia from Monday onwards to self-isolate for 14 days.

Crown said the adopted measures followed consultation with the Victorian government and have been approved by the state's chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton.

The new measures only apply to Crown's Melbourne entertainment complex and not the Perth complex at this stage.

However, Crown said other precautionary measures have been implemented at both locations, including the provision of alcohol-based hand sanitiser and "more frequent and strengthened" cleaning measures.

Crown said it would continue to closely monitor the pandemic and follow guidelines from relevant health authorities.

Last month, Crown Resorts reported an 11% drop in half yearly net profit after tax to $172.7 million, while normalised EBITDA fell 9% to $381.3 million.

The gaming giant said a 34.2% decline in VIP program play turnover was due to continued "softer market conditions, exacerbated by recent negative publicity", referring to media allegations that prompted state and federal inquiries into Crown's use of high-roller agents or 'junket operators'.

Today's announcement has the potential to add further damage to the company's bottom line with Crown already stating on 19 February that "travel restrictions and general community uncertainty in response to COVID-19" had resulted in softer trading conditions, particularly over the Lunar New Year period.

By afternoon trade, Crown shares had fallen by almost 11% to $7.30.

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