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Star Casino escapes tighter restrictions

Heightened social distancing requirements will not apply to casinos like the Star in Sydney. Photo: Flickr/llee_wu

By ALLISON HORE

The Star Casino will be exempt from tighter social distancing laws for bars and restaurants despite being charged $5,000 for breaching social distancing guidelines.

On Saturday night large groups of patrons at the Star Casino were seen standing and mingling amongst each other while drinking alcohol. Under existing public health orders patrons must be seated to be served alcohol. Liquor & Gaming NSW confirm that a $5,000 fine will be issued for the offence. 

Acting director of compliance for Liquor & Gambling NSW, Dimitri Argeres, said that the Star Casino was “aware of its obligations to establish and enforce their COVID-19 Safety Plan” as the venue had already been visited by inspectors twice over the past 2 weeks.

“The fine follows a third inspection on the weekend where we witnessed further breaches of the COVID-19 Safety Plan, with patrons standing while consuming liquor and mingling between groups,” he said in a press statement.

“We want to send a strong message that businesses must manage these risks to ensure individual patrons and the community are protected.”

In response to the growing number of pub-related COVID-19 cases in Sydney, the NSW government will tighten the leash on venues across the state. 

The tougher restrictions, decided in an emergency meeting of senior government ministers on Monday night, will include dropping the number of people allowed per booking from 20 to 10 and large venues being capped at 300 patrons. To enable easier contact tracing, venues will have to keep a digital record of patron names and phone numbers and submit it to Service NSW within 24 hours.

The new rules will also require that large venues have dedicated “hygiene marshals” to help oversee social distancing procedures at all times of day, for smaller pubs and restaurants these marshals will only be required at peak dining times.

These changes will only apply to pubs, and not casinos, despite a confirmed case at The Star. In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, the Star Entertainment Group said that a patron who visited The Star Sydney on Saturday, 4 July from around 7.30pm to 10.30pm tested positive for the virus. 

In a press conference on Tuesday morning, NSW premier Gladys Berijiklian denied assertions the previous restrictions were not tight enough, but acknowledged community transmission could have been occurring for weeks. She said the level of community transmission that is currently being seen in Victoria and South West Sydney is unprecedented for the continent.

“Previously, prior to what occurred in Victoria, the vast majority of cases in Australia were from overseas travellers and their direct contacts,” she said.

“We are now at a very different phase in the pandemic, when the vast majority of cases in Australia are from community-to-community transmission and that impacts the way in which we deal with the disease.”

She urged the public to remember that the pandemic is not over and to maintain social distancing procedures when visiting public spaces.

“Life is not normal, it will not be normal until we have a vaccine or a cure,” she said.

The new rules for pubs and restaurants in NSW will come into force at midnight on Friday.

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