Star Entertainment Group has revealed that it will increase capacity, including welcoming a small number of invited casino guests, as part of eased restrictions in the Australian state of New South Wales, from Monday 1 June.

While the main gaming floor will remain closed to the public, The Star said in a weekend announcement that it is now able to extend invitations to a select number of loyalty members to access the casino zone, which will be by booking only.

The capacity of selected food and beverage outlets, including fine dining restaurants, will also increase from 10 people to 50 people, pending the ability of each venue to maintain social distancing requirements.

Additional visitation will be permitted across other areas of The Star complex, including The Darling and The Star Grand hotels, already opened fine dining restaurants Sokyo and Black, other food venues and luxury shopping outlets. Star said it has lodged a COVID Safe Operating Plan to the state government which has been endorsed by two of Australia’s leading public health and infectious disease experts.

The expansion of services will see around 1,000 staff back at work from Monday, with The Star having previously stood down 95% of its 9,000-strong workforce across NSW and Queensland.

“We want to thank the NSW Government for their support,” said Star Group CEO Matt Bekier. “The business and human impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been extraordinary”.

“We have attempted to ease financial stress for our people through paid pandemic leave, a targeted hardship program for the most seriously affected, early access to annual leave and long service leave, plus JobKeeper payments.

“However, having people back to work is the biggest step we can take. It will be a gradual process. From Monday we will have the opportunity to return more team members to their jobs.

“It will still leave us operating at significantly lower than usual levels and operations will not be materially profitable at this stage. However, the primary objective is returning our team members to work and re-engaging with guests.”

Star said daily visitation in recent years has averaged around 30,000 people (around 11 million per year).

“The tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors have been decimated over the past couple of months,” Bekier said. “The sooner we can all return to previous levels of operation, the better.

“However, it must also be in a responsible manner, and our plans are aligned with precautions the NSW Government wants in place as restrictions are gradually unwound.

“We will work diligently to ensure all health and social distancing regulations are promoted and enforced. That will hopefully accelerate the process to further expansion of operations for our properties in NSW and Queensland.”