Pokies back in business amid fears of a second wave
THE C.Ex Club in Coffs Harbour reopened its doors on Monday after being closed for 10 weeks due to Covid-19.
It's members-only inside the doors and numbers will be capped at 350 people. The club has seven eating areas, so the 350 limit is based on the 50-customer rule for restaurants across NSW.
The Woolgoolga C.ex club opens today with a 150 person limit and Urunga on Wednesday limited to 100 patrons.
According to C.ex group CEO John Rafferty, the members-only approach will help avoid a second wave of infections.
"We didn't have much of a problem on the North Coast and all of the cases were either from overseas or from the Ruby Princess so my aim is that by being members only we will have a greater chance of controlling it," Mr Rafferty said.
"And with 33,000 members that's only one per cent of our membership so we wanted to make sure it was available to members.
"If a member brings a non-member along we will allow them to join, but if a visitor rocks up on their own they can't come in."
Mr Rafferty estimates that around lunch time today there were approximately 150 people in the club.
Of particular concern to some in the community has been the opening up of poker machines.
The NSW Council for Social Service, Wesley Mission and the Alliance for Gambling Reform have warned of a potential tsunami of gambling harm and other public health issues.
These groups are astounded NSW has reopened club and pub poker machines when every other state plans to keep them shut off for at least another month due to Covid-19 infection risks.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello, is calling on the industry to be reformed to slow the rate of poker machine losses which can be as high as $1200 an hour in NSW.
Rev Costello has spoken of the $1 billion Covid-19 silver lining in NSW with that amount saved from being fed into poker machines at pubs and clubs in the first two month of the shutdown.
Approximately 156 machines were back up and running on Monday at the Coffs Harbour C.ex club and according to Mr Rafferty the most that were playing at any one time were 80 people.
"So people weren't lining up to play them or anything - about half the machines available were being played."
A number of staff have been trained as 'social distancing ambassadors' and part of their role is to clean each poker machine after use.
The club normally houses 250 machines.
Coordinator of the Coffs Coast Action Network Cheryl Cooper says the Government has its priority wrong on this issue.
"Gambling destroys lives and yet it is reopening and, I believe, gyms are still closed," Ms Cooper said.
"For me that shows that dollars are coming above health. This was, maybe still is, a great opportunity to make some changes in this area, but at the very least health should be the primary concern when opening up any facilities."