A senior politician in the Australian state of Victoria has criticised the state government for its failure to shut down the high profile Crown casino.
Anthony Byrne, who heads the National Security Committee in Victoria, said that the failure to close down the casino risked more exposure to people in the state. At the same time, Crown Resorts, the casino operator, announced that they have suspended trading in their shares and that they are working with the state government over how to proceed.
In particular, Byrne criticised the words of premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, who had said that the casino was a unique venue that was entitled to stay open:
“Given this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is a matter of national security requiring us to take all steps to protect our community, Crown and other casinos have to be shut down. Crown doesn’t offer a unique community service. It is not a special place. It undermines confidence in government measures to contain the virus by giving Crown a free ride to remain open.”
Byrne added that he was dealing with emergency services workers who were worried about contracting the virus from people who attended the casino, and that state governments that allowed casinos to continue to operate were being inconsistent in their approach to managing the crisis.
The decision to allow the casino to continue to operate was in marked contrast to decisions taking in major gambling centres around the world. In Las Vegas, the Nevada government has shut down all of the city’s casinos, while Macau, the largest casino hub outside Vegas, closed down all of its casino venues for more than two weeks in February to help control the virus spread.
Charles Livingstone, a professor at Monash University School of Public Health, also criticised the decision of the state government, citing in particular the risks posed by poker machines which he said should be considered a high-risk vector for infection.