Poker leagues come together to fight NSW Police directive shutting down all live poker events

After last week’s shock announcement that saw all live poker in the state of New South Wales suspended due to a public health order, the major “pub poker” brands are now banding together to try and revive the industry.

Since publication of our article last week, multiple sources within the industry have approached PokerMedia Australia querying the directive with none having been able to source a formal statement from the relevant government or health authorities.

PMA has since learned that the initial directive was made by members of NSW Police in the North West Metropolitan region of Sydney last Friday against a poker franchisee allegedly in breach of hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

In a message emailed to operators and licensing enforcement agents, since shared with PMA, NSW Police said poker tournaments are considered to be a “group booking, and all of the people are there for a common purpose.”

Operators were told that because players “are all sharing cards, poker chips and in close proximity to each other … the event should be shut down and the licensee advised and warned; if [they refuse] to comply then issue an infringement for breaching direction under 7/8/9 COVID.”

It was acknowledged within the message that, prior to the statewide shutdown, NSW Police “had not formed an official position [on poker] and … advice may have been different from one Police Area Command [region] to another,” however that stance has since changed based on legal advice.

The vast majority of poker league operators, many of whom had invested a great deal into implementing strict hygiene and distancing procedures that went above and beyond NSW state guidelines, have expressed their disappointment in the face of the decision.

Full House Group CEO Brayden Haynes has indicated that the Australian Poker League (APL), along with the WPT League and National Poker League (NPL), is already in the process of working on a COVID Safe Accord which would be implemented by all poker leagues and card rooms across the state.

PMA will bring further updates to this story as it develops.

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