In a first for Australian poker, WPT League licensees in New South Wales are introducing a mandatory “no mask, no play” policy for players and staff, effective immediately.
Although the wearing of face masks is not currently being enforced by the NSW Government, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has issued a “strong recommendation” for them to be worn by people in places where social distancing is unable to be maintained, as a second wave of community transmissions continues to infiltrate the state.
While many pub poker leagues and card rooms have already made the wearing of masks optional for players, the WPT League have elected to go one step further which, according to WPT League Sydney Licensee Bruno Rao, makes perfect sense.
“Since July 1, we’ve hit the ground running because there’s been an appetite from people to play,” Rao told PokerMedia Australia. “But the outbreak in Casula [in mid-July] seemed to scare people off and made them more reluctant to come.
“In saying that, numbers in most of our venues have been really, really strong.”
PMA understands that a ruling from NSW Health allows for poker tournament seating and player numbers to be maintained in a similar vein to restaurant table bookings and within the “four square metre rule” that currently applies to pubs and clubs.
Although WPT League events throughout the country are currently running six-handed and in line with their Event Hygiene Practices, Rao conceded there was some confusion amongst patrons, given the need to maintain social distancing.
“The plan was always to introduce masks at some point as an option for players, but once the announcement was made, we decided we had to move quickly and put this rule in place,” he said.
The response on social media has been mostly positive – hardly surprising given reluctance from citizens in NSW to experience the type of Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions in effect throughout metropolitan Melbourne.
The WPT League has confirmed that its new mask policy is region based, with a spokesperson reiterating masks are not required at all WPT League events “for now”.
Players are permitted to use their own face coverings, while disposable masks can be purchased upon registration for $1. The WPT League-branded reusable masks will be made available soon for $5 apiece.
For more information, please refer to the WPT League Sydney Facebook page.