Live poker’s return is slow despite casino reopenings

by William Brown Last Updated
Poker Fold

Live poker in Australia ceased to exist by late March thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Casino Aus reports that what started as a unique flu-like virus in late 2019 in China quickly spread throughout the world.

By February, countries like Italy shut down all non-essential businesses and ordered everyone to quarantine.

Health and government officials in other places, such as North America and Australia, closed everything in mid-March with the same goal – coronavirus had to be stopped.

As Australia prohibited gatherings of people and non-essential activities, casinos, pubs and clubs were among the first establishments to close. That meant no live poker.

The beginning of June brought new hope.

The number of coronavirus cases were steadily declining and it seemed Aussies could begin reopening businesses again.

As restaurants and stores carefully opened their doors with social distancing and hygiene policies in place, some businesses were not allowed to open.

Concert venues, movie theatres and other places requiring large groups of people to be in close proximity to each other were going to be some of the last to reopen.

Casinos were on that list.

There is hope though.

Some poker groups are planning their comebacks and while tours continue to cancel their poker tournament action or offer online alternatives, local leagues are dipping their toes in the water.

As many casinos began to reopen in the past several weeks, they have chosen to reintroduce the easiest forms of gambling to allow for social distancing.

Slot machines can be moved apart and only allow play on every other one.

Table games can restrict players in each blackjack or pai gow game without affecting results.

Poker is a different game.

Players must touch chips and cards for every hand played. This provides ample opportunity for germs to spread quickly.

For this reason, casinos are working on their reopening processes and haven’t yet reopened their poker rooms.

SkyCity properties are one example.

Casinos first began to reopen in New Zealand several weeks ago and revenue from electronic gaming machines shows that they recovered to nearly 80 per cent of their pre-pandemic daily average.

SkyCity’s properties in Adelaide will begin their reopening processes in June, starting with restaurants and hotel business and then casino offerings.

Poker will not likely be included in the June offerings, with SkyCity casino websites providing no updates on the resumption of poker action.

Crown properties are also beginning to reopen, but without poker.

There are no timetables regarding the return of poker cash games, much less tournaments.

APL gets ready for action

The Australian Poker League, run by the Full House Group, was growing in leaps and bounds in recent years.

Before the pandemic, it conducted about 800 poker tournaments each week across Australia.

A few weeks ago, the APL made public its intentions of reopening soon.

The impediment at that point was understanding the restrictions in each location in each territory to sufficiently plan events.

Full House Group chief executive Brayden Haynes said players and staff alike are ready to restart the action.

He noted that the Aussie poker market is “very, very healthy.”

On May 29, the APL released new tournament guidelines.

The “COVID Aware” rules will ensure compliance with government and health officials and enable players to feel comfortable returning to venues for poker.

These include all tournaments directors completing training, all tables operating at a maximum of six players and any players with cold symptoms not allowed to stay at the venue.

Chips and cards will also be sprayed with anti-bacterial solutions before and after each event, with each tournament to use fresh card decks.

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