NSW is set to become the first state to allow pokies venues to reopen as coronavirus restrictions are eased, but anti-gambling groups say it’s a case of putting “money before health”.
From Monday, up to 50 people will be allowed in restaurants, pubs and cafes. ClubsNSW says it’s also “been advised by the NSW government that bar and gaming facilities are permitted to reopen from June 1”.
But Alliance for Gambling Reform executive director Tony Mohr says NSW is going against federal government advice, which recommends high-touch and high-density activities – such as gaming rooms – should be among the last to reopen.
“This is really about money before public health, I think it’s that plain,” Mr Mohr told AAP.
“A lot of these clubs and pubs have become so dependent on poker machines, they want to turn the cash cows back on.”
The gambling reform activist says pokies are used more by older Australians and that demographic is “much more vulnerable to COVID-19”.
“So that’s not a good combination,” he said.
Mr Mohr argues people are more vulnerable to harmful gambling when experiencing financial distress or hardship, which is more prevalent during the pandemic.
NSW clubs from Monday will be permitted to have 50 people per restaurant or cafe inside one venue.
“A club’s patron capacity may further increase beyond 50 patrons – in increments of 50 up to a maximum of 500 – in accordance with the number of restaurants and cafes inside the club,” ClubsNSW said in a statement on Friday.
ClubsNSW says it’s committed to ensuring people are safe.
“Clubs will enforce social distancing measures, including the implementation of queuing systems and directional signage, and a requirement to remain seated unless placing an order,” a spokesperson told AAP in a statement.
“Clubs will also introduce strict cleaning schedules to ensure high-touch surfaces are regularly cleaned and hand sanitiser will be made available throughout venues.”