Many of Australia’s states, including New South Wales, are to ease lockdown restrictions from next week as pokies will resume business from 1st June 2020.
Authorities and ministers in Australia have announced that as many as fifty people per one time will be able to visit hospitality related businesses from the start of next month, including pubs, restaurants and cafes.
This means that for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown began and businesses shuttered, customers to such venues will be able to play a range of pokie machines at local venues, some of which house a large number of machines that players can gamble on.
However, the announcement has been met with some opposition and criticism that during these unprecedented times, re-introducing pokies may pose a gambling addiction spike and result in a rise of problem gambling.
Tony Mohr, executive director of Alliance for Gambling Reform commented on the announcement:
“This is really about money before public health, I think it’s that plain. A lot of these clubs and pubs have become so dependent on poker machines, they want to turn the cash cows back on.”
According to reports, pokies are used a lot more by older people in Australia and are potentially more vulnerable to gambling related problems, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mohr continued to share his doubts over the timing of such openings:
“For every million dollars that is spent on poker-machine gambling, only about three jobs are created. That palpable sense of relief is really remarkable, it would be a real tragedy if the money these people have saved just disappears next week.”
Along with the concerns for gambling addiction and other problems, many are also questioning whether the re-opening is too soon and worry that such a move could result in a spike in Covid-19 infections.
But a health spokesperson for the state said:
“These checklists will provide guidance for businesses to develop a COVID safety plan and all relevant information will be made publicly available. NSW Health will continue to engage with industry groups on the safe reopening of businesses in line with health advice.”
What are pokies?
Pokies are gaming machines in the country of Australia that use video technology to simulate games, similar to that of online pokies. Pokies can include both slots games and video poker and feature free spins, free games and bonus rounds.