Poker Still on Slow Path to Recovery In Australia

Live poker in Australia ceased operations in mid-March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What started as a unique flu-like virus in December 2019 and January 2020 in China quickly spread throughout the world. In February, countries like Italy shut down all nonessential businesses and ordered everyone to quarantine in place. Health and government officials in other places, from North America to Australia, closed everything in mid-March with the same goal. Covid-19 had to be stopped.

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

The beginning of June brought new hope. The numbers of coronavirus cases were steadily declining, and it seemed that the Aussies could begin reopening businesses. But as restaurants and stores carefully opened their doors with social distancing and disinfecting policies in place, some businesses were not allowed to open. Concert venues, movie theaters, and other places requiring large group of people to be in close proximity to each other were going to be some of the last establishments to reopen. Casinos were among the last on that list.

There is hope, however. Some poker groups are planning their comebacks. While some tours continue to cancel their poker tournament action or offer online alternatives, leagues are dipping their toes in the water.

Casinos Without Poker

As many casinos began to reopen in the past several weeks, they have chosen to start with 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 the results.

Poker is a different story, however, in that players must touch chips and cards for every hand played. This provides ample opportunity for germs to spread quickly.

For this reason, casinos that are working on their reopening processes have not yet opened their poker rooms. SkyCity properties are some of the examples.

Casinos began reopening in New Zealand several weeks ago. And initial reports show that revenue from electronic gaming machines – pokies – recovered to nearly 80% of their pre-pandemic daily average. It should be noted, however, that casinos are not yet open to new players, only those who were a part of their Premier Rewards loyalty program.

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

Poker will not likely be included in the June offerings. SkyCity casino websites provide no updates on the resumption of poker action, not in Adelaide nor in any New Zealand casinos.

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 Anxious to Return

The Australian Poker League, better known as the APL and run by the Full House Group, was growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. Before the pandemic, it ran approximately 800 poker tournaments each week across Australia.

Just 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. And Full House Group CEO 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 for all events going forward. These “COVID Aware” rules will ensure compliance with government and health officials and enable players to feel comfortable returning to venues for poker.

The rules for the number of patrons and tables will depend on the venue, and those things will determine the distancing requirements. Other new rules include:

  • All tournament directors must complete COVID Safe Training through their state governments.
  • All tables will be 6-max.
  • Safe hygiene practices and expectations will be displayed at registration tables.
  • Players with any cold symptoms will not be allowed to stay at the venue.
  • Venues will make hand sanitizer available at registration tables, required for everyone entering and exiting the venue.
  • Venues will provide disposable gloves to anyone who wants them.
  • Players should download the COVID Safe Government app.
  • Tournament directors must remind players of hygiene obligations at all opportunities.
  • Chips and cards must be sprayed with anti-bacterial solutions before and after each event.
  • Each tournament will use fresh card decks.
  • Players and TDs must sanitize their hands before the final table begins.
  • No one may discriminate against players for wearing masks.

Asian Poker Tour Remains Online

The Asian Poker Tour was heavily dependent upon venues all over Asia for tournament stops, so nearly everything from March forward was cancelled due to the pandemic.

However, the APT partnered with the GGNetwork, which boasts of sites like GGPoker and Natural8. In April, the poker tour announced the first APT Online Series 2020 on Natural8 set for April 29 through May 10. There were dozens of online poker tournaments on the schedule with millions of dollars in guarantees.

Upon its completion, that series recorded these impressive numbers:

  • Total tournaments: 62
  • Total entries: 18,555
  • Cumulative prize pools: $4,114,227.50
  • Largest prize pool: $578,075 in APT Online Main Event

With that, the APT announced this weekend that it will host the APT 2020 Online Series 2nd Edition. It is set to begin next weekend and run June 14-28. There will be $10 million in guaranteed prize pools, and the full schedule will be announced in the coming days.

APPT Still Not Ready

The PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) is not ready to resume its live offerings. Obviously, the choices predominantly depend on the partner casinos in various Asian countries, and most of those are not prepared to host tournaments yet, either.

The latest announcement from PokerStars was the postponement of the APPT Manila. It had been set for July 31 through August 8 at Okada Manila in the Philippines. However, the World Health Organization and local officials are not going to allow it to move forward as planned.

At this point, there is nothing remaining on the APPT schedule, so it remains to be seen if and/or when the live tour will resume.



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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