ACT Clubs calls for easing of territory’s COVID-19 closure

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Popular Canberra club brings in the most poker machine revenue

Clubs in the Australian Capital Territory are hopeful that restrictions preventing them trading will be lifted sooner rather than later, after reports of booming business just outside the state’s boundaries.

The ABC reports that the organisation representing ACT clubs has called on the government to allow gaming to restart in the territory, with reports Canberrans are travelling to nearby Queanbeyan to use the pokies.

New South Wales opted to its gaming restrictions, while the ACT held firm in not permitting the activity, despite allowing venues to cater up to 100 people at a time.

The ACT decided to hold restrictions at stage 2.2, with gaming and casinos not able to reopen until stage 3.

In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic forced casinos to shut across Australia, some have suffered permanent closures, with Kaleen Eastlake Club announcing that it would permanently close last week.

Businesses across the border are benefiting from the lighter restrictions, according to ACT Clubs, who say gaming venues need a reprieve to keep people in jobs and ensure trade stays in the territory.

Since restrictions on venues in New South Wales eased, trade on the average gaming machine saw an 89 per cent increase in turnover.

Those in Queanbeyan increased nearly five times that – jumping 453 per cent.

One reason could be its closer proximity to the ACT.

Owner of Queanbeyan’s Royal Hotel Anthony McDonald said he had seen a lot more Canberrans at this venue recently.

It could be due to the access to pokies and lighter restrictions around how long a person could stay, he said.

“We’re seeing strong food and beverage numbers and people are definitely coming across from the ACT,” he said.

“I know in the ACT they have time restrictions and you have to leave after your sitting, but I don’t think any of the operations in Queanbeyan are putting time restriction on it.”

The ACT Government said gaming venues were restricted because of the higher risk of infection posed by some activities over others.

“One of the things the Chief Health Officer has been really clear about is that we need to assess cumulative risk when we’re determining the easing of restrictions,” Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

“It is about managing the cumulative risk to our community of people coming together, intermingling in situations particularly where there may be alcohol involved, where they may lose some of their inhibitions or may stay in a venue for a length of time.”

Mr McDonald said the same social distancing rules applied to every area of his venue, whether it was for gaming, drinking or dining.

“We’re working on the one in four capacity, so subject to social distancing, we can turn our machines on,” he said.

“It means some places have put only every second machine on.

“But most importantly, it means for the pubs and clubs, we have access to the gaming machines as well.”

He said while the pokies were not a huge part of their business, they had seen an uptick in revenue nonetheless.

Tasmanians lose at pokies as regulator issues breach notices

Tasmanians have lost more than $2.6 million to pokies machines in the last five days of June, as the machines were once again turned on following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Examiner reported in July that Tasmanian gamblers have also been barred from using various forms of cashless technology to play the pokies.

Venues are unable to accept bank deposits or electronic funds transfers and similar digital payments for gambling purposes under a measure introduced by the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission.

State Treasury’s Liquor and Gaming branch said the commission made the decision among amendments to its mandatory code of practice, which took effect on March 1.

‘This amendment ensures customers are only able to access additional funds through typical withdrawal methods, such as ATMs and EFTPOS, which have cash limits,” Liquor and Gaming said.

Greens Hotel in Burnie was fined $336 for allowing people to remain on licensed premises when unauthorised to do so and $840 for selling liquor, except as authorised.

The MODE Bar and NiteClub in Launceston was fined $815 for allowing people to remain on licensed premises when unauthorised to do so.

The Mobius Lounge Bar in Hobart had conditions imposed on its out of hours permit and hours reduced following what Liquor and Gaming said was the sale and consumption of liquor in the licensed premises causing disorderly conduct in the premises and in its neighbourhood.

Three people received letters of censure for playing keno at the venues where they were employed.

Two men had their licenses suspended for playing keno at the venues where they were employed and extending credit to themselves.

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