Canberra residents crossing border to play pokies

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Cashless gaming trial set for Newcastle club this September

Residents of Canberra who are prevented from playing pokie machines near their home due to COVID-19 restrictions are crossing into New South Wales to play.

The Canberra Times reports that up to 40 per cent of patrons of border town clubs in New South Wales are actually from the ACT.

Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said reports coming from pubs and clubs in Queanbeyan were that almost half of those signing in were from Canberra.

Mr Rees said NSW clubs were seeing an extraordinary turnaround in food and beverage trade, while ACT clubs remainder closed to gamblers.

Queanbeyan Leagues Club general manager Jeremy Wyatt confirmed that since NSW had been given the green light to reopen on June 1, they had been busier than ever.

“Our trade has been up since reopening when compared to pre COVID-19 restrictions, we think largely due to the increase in patronage from the ACT,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Broadly speaking, we know we have had an increase in patronage from ACT residents as every person must register when they enter the club.

“The club has performed well since restrictions, even with all the extra work involved in cleaning, monitoring social distancing and other requirements that come with having a COVID-safe business.”

Clubs and pubs in NSW, the Northern Territory and South Australia all opened to gaming in June, with Victoria flagging a July 20 opening prior to its surge in coronavirus cases.

Following a written submission to chief health officer Kerryn Coleman, ACT Clubs had hoped to reboot poker machines with the planned transition to stage three restrictions on July 10.

Chief minister Andrew Barr’s July announcement that Canberra would take a more cautious approach than previously planned saw pokies, casinos, strip clubs and brothels banned from opening.

Mr Rees said clubs and gaming were now in operation in every other state and territory with the exception of Victoria.

“We have had a live trial of poker machines in Queanbeyan for two months – no COVID transmission, full stop,” he said.

“Clubs have offered to implement a range of measures to allay any concerns by the ACT CHO, but we have had no response and no explanation of why ACT residents are allowed to access gaming machines in Queanbeyan, which is effectively a suburb of Canberra, but not in our other suburbs.”

Relationships Australia chief executive Alison Brook said the service provider had received reports of Queanbeyan clubs doing a roaring trade, a consequence of an uncoordinated approach within NSW.

Ms Brooks said a more insidious concern was the largely unregulated online gambling industry.

“The problem with that is you haven’t got trained attendants observing what’s going on in the gaming room when you’re doing the same thing on a computer screen,” she said.

“That worries me potentially more than gamblers crossing the border.”

Casino Canberra ordered to pay employee damages

Casino Canberra must pay a long-serving employee $4000 in damages after a tribunal found it discriminated against the man when he raised the legitimate concerns of his colleagues with this newspaper.

The Canberra Times reported in July that Bryan Kidman spoke to the newspaper in August 2019 when many casino employees were fearing for their jobs and desperate for answers on their futures.

While the deal ultimately fell through, the controlling interest in the Civic casino was at that point on the brink of changing hands in a complex $32 million transaction.

Mr Kidman, who has worked at the casino since 2003, took part in the interview with the newspaper in his role as a delegate for the hospitality workers’ union.

He said in the August article that United Voice had sought written assurances for casino employees that the impending deal would not result in forced redundancies, changes to rosters or outsourcing of work.

But no such guarantees were forthcoming from Blue Whale Entertainment, which was at that time in the final stages of the ultimately failed acquisition.

Casino owner Aquis Entertainment Limited had also failed to provide the requested assurances.

As a result, Mr Kidman said, casino workers had been left in the dark about staffing levels, wages and other conditions.

“If they won’t give us an undertaking about the conditions, then there must be a reason for that,” he said.

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