- »Victoria Talks Gambling Landscape as Casinos Stay Closed
Victoria Talks Gambling Landscape as Casinos Stay Closed
Victoria has been a hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic in Australia since March. As the virus spread through Australia and forced health and government officials to order shutdowns in mid-March, Victoria was one of the territories with the most stubborn case numbers.
Many parts of society began the reopening process in the past few weeks, but places like clubs, pubs, and casinos will be among the last non-essential businesses to reopen. Since that is unlikely to happen until late July, Victoria stepped up with some guidance to help mitigate gambling harm as players are tempted by offshore online gambling websites.
Victorian Reopening Progress
On May 25, the Victorian government and Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen approved the first phase of reopening. Some schools reopened for in-person learning, and children were able to play at public playgrounds and parks. They permitted private and public gatherings of 20 people, including religious services and restaurant clientele.
When that seemed to go well, the next phase was set for the end of this weekend. This will include the following allowances:
- Restaurants, bars, clubs, and pubs open to up to 50 seated patrons with 20 per group.
- Pub TABs and retail TABs open.
- Museums, galleries, amusement parks, zoos, and arcades open up to 50 patrons per indoor space.
- Cinemas, theaters, concert venues open up to 50 seated patrons.
- Religious services open up to 50 people with 20 per group.
- Indoor sports centres open up to 20 people per space with 10 per group.
- Full-contact sport training and competition for 18-years-old and under
- Non-contact sport training and competition for over 18
- Ski season open.
Along with those rules, the guidance shows that electronic gaming areas in pubs, clubs, casinos, and hotels may not open until July 20.
VRGF Reaches Out
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation CEO Shane Lucas spoke out earlier this month to let people know that the organization is there for all affected by gambling harm.
In a time when in-person services are only beginning to resume, Gambler’s Help agencies are offering services via the telehealth model. Anyone needing assistance or advice – new and existing clients – can obtain therapeutic and financial counselling virtually.
The benefits of this include providing help in a timelier manner and outside of standard business hours. The people of Victoria have responded positively to the changes, which prompted Lucas to note that some of the new methods of client services will likely continue beyond the pandemic restrictions.
Gambling Harm with No Gambling?
Some may assume that the absence of pokies and the closures of casinos and clubs mitigated gambling harm in and of itself. That may be true for some, but others’ circumstances were exacerbated by the situation.
First, some with a love of casino games, poker, and pokies took to online casinos and gaming sites during the quarantine months. Since the Australian government does not license these activities, it is difficult to track the exact number of players who have transitioned to online gambling in the past three months. There are some, and there are ones who may not know how to gamble this way wisely and with money management tools in mind.
Second, many people who did stop gambling for the past few months may be nervous about falling back into their old habits when their favorite venues reopen.
Third, sports betting has been alive online during the pandemic, but the options for wagering were greatly diminished due to the few sports taking place around the world. As those sports resume and sports betting offerings increase again, young men will be especially vulnerable to fall back into old habits or try gambling for the first time.
How to Mitigate Gambling Harm
Lucas noted in his message to the people of Victoria that the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation is currently conducting research and coordinating with other organizations to obtain helpful information about gambling before, during, and after the quarantine.
Further, the VRGF is reaching out to those at risk for gambling harm who now have extenuating circumstances that can increase potential harm. This may be due to job loss or other results of the pandemic. Gambling addicts may have also had a very difficult time adjusting to the lack of live gambling.
The priorities for the VRGF at this point are as follows:
- Enhancing prevention measures for at-risk groups, including those with mental health issues
- Meeting Reconciliation Action Plan commitments
- Supporting peer connection and lived experience-informed activities
- Encouraging people to do the 100-Day Challenge
- Tackling normalization via the Love the Game Sporting Club Program
Anyone who is seeking help in Victoria during this time can find resources on the Gamblers Help website or by simply calling 1800-959-858 around the clock. There is someone available at all hours of the day or night.