- »NSW Offers Assistance to Pokies Operators As Cases Rise
NSW Offers Assistance to Pokies Operators As Cases Rise
Hoteliers and clubs with gaming machines received news of a break this week. The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority announced temporary financial arrangements for operators who had been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The assistance takes the form of payment extensions or deferments. While only temporary, it can help businesses that were forced to close their doors for months in 2020. And considering the spread of Covid-19 continues to pose a threat, the help is much needed.
Aristocrat is an Australian-based company and one of the top manufacturers in the world for gaming cabinets, video gaming terminals, and pokies machines. It has a vested interest in the operators using their products.
The Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) is a representative organization of Australian gaming machine technology suppliers. The organization lobbies the government in a variety of ways to ensure that its members are treated fairly and heard in the larger gambling industry.
Aristocrat and the GTA both sent requests to the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority recently to advocate for their customers. They had been hearing from many gaming operators in deep financial troubles after the Covid-19 shutdowns and the ensuing slow reopening process.
The New South Wales regulator responded affirmatively.
New Terms Approved
Essentially, the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority had to request that the NSW government allow an official change to its laws.
Specifically, financial arrangements for operators acquiring gaming machines are addressed in Section 72 of the Gaming Machines Act of 2001. Even more specifically, Section 72(1)(b) reads:
A hotelier or club must not keep or modify an approved gaming machine unless the gaming machine is kept or modified in accordance with financial and other arrangements approved by the Authority under a written contract that includes such terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the regulations.
Further, the law states that any change to financial arrangements regarding gaming machines lacking the written consent of the Authority is void.
The Authority did give its approval in the form of a news release announcing these new financial arrangements for operators acquiring gaming machines:
- Extension of an extra 90 days to all existing approved payment terms
- Extension of an extra six months to all existing approved payment plans set for 12 months, two years, or three years
- General deferral of payments of up to six months in rare cases as determined by the licensed dealer or seller
- Availability of terms to new orders from hotels and clubs through September 30, 2020
The Authority noted that these changes coalesce with the actions of the NSW government toward the gaming industry in the months following the March shutdown due to the pandemic. The NSW regulator acknowledged that this step was necessary due to the economic stress and impact of the pandemic response.
Though the new arrangements are set to expire at the end of September, the Authority will simply review them at that time to see if any further extensions or adjustments will be necessary.
Threats of a Second Coronavirus Wave
Australians – and most of the rest of the world – now seems to understand that Covid-19 will remain a threat to the health of citizens until a vaccine is discovered and distributed. The attempt to return to normal life after the March-June shutdowns must be done carefully, and it may not be a complete return for some time.
The worse situation involving new cases emerged in Victoria throughout July, but New South Wales saw a worrisome trend, too.
The number of positive Covid-19 cases in NSW began to increase in mid-June but became concerning in July with 15 new cases on July 12, 17 cases on July 13 and again on July 18, 19 on July 24, 21 on July 28, and 23 on July 30.
This prompted the Authority to crack down on businesses that did not adhere to social distancing rules as they reopened.
The largest fine in mid-July went to The Star Sydney. Health officials traced a Covid-positive person back to Saturday night, July 4. Upon further review, NSW Health agents made several visits in early July to The Star Sydney and found numerous breaches of the Covid-19 Safety Plan, as many people drinking alcohol mingled too closely. The result was a $5,000 fine.
NSW added more Liquor & Gaming inspectors and authorized others to conduct inspections. With more than 250 people on the case, they hoped to stop the rise in positive coronavirus cases.
In response, the Authority issued more fines to clubs, pubs, and restaurants in NSW. That brought the total of fines issued to $70,000 in July, specifically related to Covid-19.
Not only did the Authority issue fines for venues not enforcing social distancing rules and not keeping records of customers, the Authority then had to initiate contact tracing procedures. NSW Executive Director of Compliance Peter Dunphy noted, “It beggars belief that anyone would want to eat, drink and mingle, shoulder to shoulder with others during a pandemic.”