- »Casinos and Clubs Begin to Welcome Players Back
Casinos and Clubs Begin to Welcome Players Back
Pokies players have been without their favorite form of entertainment for several months. Casinos, clubs, and pubs – all nonessential businesses, actually – closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and owners are finally ready to slowly welcome their customers back into their establishments.
Many fans of the pokies, bettors, and poker players did find other things to do during the two-plus months of quarantine. Online casinos, online poker sites, and even games on social media sites like Facebook provided some entertainment during this time.
The Australian government was not exactly pleased about the increase in online gambling, as there are no regulated online poker sites or internet casino game operators based in Australia to pay taxes and benefit Aussies. As a reminder, however, this is due to the Australian government’s unwillingness to legalize and regulate the sites. But we digress…
Many parts of Australia have given the go-ahead for clubs to begin welcoming their players back.
Australian territories are each deciding how and when to reopen nonessential businesses under their leadership. While that certainly removes the onus from the Australian government to make decisions, it creates confusion for Aussies.
The Guardian seems to provide best delineation of those differences.
As for the rules pertaining to eating and gathering at cafes or pubs, these are the rules for various territories beginning June 1:
- New South Wales: up to 50 customers with social distance requirements in place
- Victoria: up to 20 patrons in an enclosed space with names and phone numbers preserved for contact tracing; up to 50 patrons beginning June 21
- Queensland: up to 10 patrons at one time (20 in outback) but no gaming; up to 20 people (50 in outback) from June 12 but still no gaming
- Tasmania: up to 10 diners per dining room; up to 20 from June 15
- Western Australia: up to 20 diners but may increase before June ends
- South Australia: up to 80 diners in groups of 20 per room or area
- Northern Territory: activities permitted for less than two hours but no gaming; two-hour limit removed from June 5, licensed gaming activities (including TAB) to restart
- ACT: up to 20 patrons per enclosed space
Since Northern Territory is the only one with gaming explicitly open in the coming days, it should be noted that anyone coming from another territory to gamble must quarantine for 14 days upon entering Northern Territory. That quarantine also costs $2,500 per person to cover government expenses.
ClubsNSW Get More
The general terms of businesses reopening in New South Wales are not specific. However, a ClubsNSW memo provides further clarification.
Contrary to the NSW rule of 50 people as of June 1, ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said that number is 500. ABC obtained an internal industry document that shows what Landis told club owners and management.
First, Landis said that he directly and “heavily” influenced the decision of government and health officials to allow clubs to reopen. While the NSW rules state that only 50 people may be permitted per venue or dining area, which is location-dependent, the Landis memo said that number is far higher.
“Following further engagement by ClubsNSW, the upper limit of 500 patrons in a venue has been removed. Instead, the upper limit will be determined by the number of ‘dining areas’ in the club, in conjunction with the 4 sqm rule … A dining area will not be assessed in connection with the presence of a kitchen.”
Further, ClubsNSW told members that gaming rooms with poker machines will be available to all members. It may be necessary to switch machines, remove chairs, or put physical space between the machines. The requirement for machines is a 1.5-metre space between players, despite all other venues tied to the 4-metre rule.
All Eyes on NSW Clubs
Since no other territories will allow pokies clubs or casinos to open yet, government officials and regulators will be watching the results of the NSW clubs doing so.
In addition, anti-gambling organizations will watch what happens as well.
Reverend Tim Costello of the Alliance for Gambling Reform told The New Daily that the shutdown of casinos and gambling establishments saved lives. He attributes 400 deaths by suicide each year to gambling. “It is impossible to calculate how many lives have been saved through these measures,” he said, “but it’s undoubtedly been a significant number, while we still have sadly had 102 deaths in Australia.”
Costello also claims that the shutdown saved Australians $1.5 billion in gambling losses.
No Takers for Costello Offer
During the Covid-19-created shutdown, Costello devised a plan that offered companies an incentive to never restart pokies businesses.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr offered Canberra clubs $15,000 each to decline pokies licenses before reopening their businesses. That money was to be used to retrain staff with new skills that would not be dependent upon pokies-related employment.
Costello started a petition to urge all state governments to do the same. His petition did not seem to catch on, however, at least in New South Wales. It remains to be seen if any ACT businesses will take the offer or if other state governments will make the same offer.
At the very least, Costello sees the shutdown as an opportunity for pokies operators to implement some reforms when reopening. He hopes they will limit operating hours and ban loyalty programs. “I think we’ve missed that main opportunity,” he said, “but we do have an opportunity to reduce (gambling harm) by doing simple things that don’t require changing a law.”
Even so, Costello might see some of his hopes come to fruition. ABC reports that the economic repercussions of the shutdown may have put some businesses out of existence. The Australian government predicts that up to 40% of clubs will not be able to reopen due to the harm of the shutdown. While that puts tens of thousands of people out of work permanently, it will take some pokies out of operation.