NSW Bans Pub Poker As Leagues Collaborate For Solutions

Poker players hate bad beats. Even more, poker players hate hearing about others’ bad beats. But the New South Wales poker community is banding together to figure out how to prevent those bad beats. They want to resume pub poker, and they are now working together to appeal the NSW ban put in place by health officials to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Shaky Start After Coronavirus Shutdowns

When the Australian government and health officials implemented the ban on all non-essential businesses and activities in March, everyone complied. Businesses closed their doors, restaurants turned off their stovetops, casinos turned off their pokies, and poker tournaments postponed all plans indefinitely.

After all, poker was one of the most susceptible activities to spreading disease. Everyone touches the same cards and chips, players sit close together, and table talk is often unavoidable.

Even when casinos began to reopen, many did not include poker rooms in their plans.

Slot machines could be spaced out to implement social distancing, and the pokies could be sanitized often. Even table games like blackjack could be set up to play with very little contact between players and cards or chips. Poker was different.

Players had hope, though, for their tours held in pubs and clubs. The Australian Poker Tour planned an 11-tournament series on the Gold Coast for the first weekend in September. The plan included social distancing, sanitization, limited players at each table, online registration, and temperature checks.

By mid-July, the APT felt the need to cancel. A second wave of positive Covid-19 cases prompted health officials to crack down on gatherings, and the APT had little choice in the matter.

And in the casino realm, The Star Sydney decided to proactively cancel all poker cash games and tournaments through the remainder of 2020.

NSW Cracks Down Further

Last week, Poker Media Australia reported that New South Wales issued orders to various poker leagues to pause all live events immediately.

Reporter Ben Blaschke then obtained further information from NSW authorities, revealing that a poker tournament is viewed as a “group booking, and all of these people are there for a common purpose.”

According to the NSW government’s guidance for pubs, clubs, function centres, and casinos, venues must severely restrict bookings. “Bookings must not exceed 10 customers (except for weddings, funerals, and corporate events.”

And health authorities confirmed to Poker Media Australia that live poker events consisting of more than 10 people would breach the public health order pertaining to Covid-19 restrictions on gathering and movement.

Poker Leagues Seek Solutions

The National Poker League made the most public statement regarding the latest turn of events, posting a notice on its website that read:

“During this hard time of Covid-19, NPL has been working with both the NSW Licensing police and the Australian Hotel Association (AHA). Our latest updates from both is that all poker events in NSW should be paused effective immediately.

“We are currently working with both groups as well as other leagues in Australia to get a clear guideline of running poker events in NSW and hope to have something soon.”

All events on the APL website show “on hold.” The Australian Poker League also issued a statement:

“We are currently working with both peak industry groups (ClubsNSW and the AHA), as well as other major poker providers to get a clear guideline of running poker events in NSW and hope to have a framework for running live poker events that satisfies the public health order.”

The Australian Poker Tour has no events on its immediate schedule for NSW. The WPT League Australia lists 39 active venues in NSW, but none of the linked venues offer any actual events.

It appears that all of the leagues are willing to work together for the good of the industry as a whole.

Clubs and Pubs Want NSW Approval

Some players assert that clubs and pubs should move forward with events anyway. However, Liquor and Gaming NSW and local authorities maintain the right to shut down events and assess penalties.

Liquor and Gaming NSW notes that the first offence for breaching public health orders will dictate a $5,500 fine “or relevant penalty.” The second offence would mandate the business to close for one week, and a third could shut it down for up to one month. The penalties increase as a venue shows repeated and willful noncompliance.

The NSW government seems to have offered help to a wide range of businesses to assist them through the pandemic and to help facilitate reopenings. Poker tournaments are different that most sports and businesses, though.

Operators will need to work closely with health officials in the coming weeks. It remains unclear if there will be any possible way to host tournaments that complies with the health department’s guidelines.


Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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