The Belgian Poker Challenge is the latest live event to fall victim to sweeping COVID restrictions in Europe. Just a few days after PokerStars put the kibosh on EPT Prague, Grand Casino de Namur has postponed its annual series.
The decision to cancel the 2021 Belgian Poker Challenge comes after new local restrictions were imposed this week. Grand Casino de Namur had planned to host a variety of low and mid-stakes events between Dec. 9 and 19. However, with orders to work from home, capacity limits, and enhanced mask rules now in place, the organizers have delayed the series until restrictions are removed.
A new date will be announced in due course, but organizers say the tournament won’t take place until sometime in the early part of 2022.
Belgian COVID restrictions dubbed ‘lockdown light’
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced last week that wearing facemasks will be mandatory in public places and is requiring the use of the COVID Safe Ticket (proof of vaccination) in more venues. However, with daily infections increasing and doctors concerned that hospitals will be overwhelmed, additional measures were enforced on Monday.
Belgium’s new COVID rules
Dubbed “lockdown light,” the latest COVID restrictions agreed on by the Belgian Concertation Committee of federal and regional governments include:
- A ban on indoor concerts where people aren’t seated
- The closure of nightclubs
- Bars, restaurants, and shops have to close at 11pm, and the number of people seated at a single table inside a restaurant will be limited to six unless they’re all members of the same family
- People may invite guests into their homes, but private parties are banned except for weddings and funerals
- Where possible, everyone must work from home for at least four days per week
The current measures are supposed to be in effect for three weeks, but Prime Minister De Croo said the current level of infection has exceeded the government’s most “pessimistic” predictions. As such, the restrictions may stay in place for longer and increase in severity.
A tough time to host Belgian Poker Challenge
CardsChat spoke to Bernard de Breyne, poker manager at Grand Casino de Namur, about the situation. He told us that the new restrictions outlaw large indoor events, making it impossible to host the Belgian Poker Challenge. However, de Breyne did confirm that the casino is still open.
Small daily tournaments are possible, as are cash games. As such, players can ante up between 3pm and 4am every day, but de Breyne warned that this could change at any time if more restrictions are introduced.
Grand Casino de Namur and de Breyne aren’t alone. A fresh wave of COVID restrictions across Europe are closing non-essential businesses and limiting the social movements of millions. PokerStars’ EPT Prague was the first major tournament series to be canceled over the weekend, though Czech casinos currently remain open.
The host venue for the EPT, King’s Resort, is currently running the WSOPE though capacity limits and early closing times have forced the organizers to adjust the schedule. PokerStars discussed the situation with King’s Resort and a joint decision was made to postpone EPT Prague until the COVID measures become less restrictive.
Since the initial reintroduction of restrictions over the past two weeks, news of a new COVID variant, Omicron, has heightened the sense of fear across Europe. Although there is little to no data supporting the idea that Omicron is more deadly than other variants, national leaders are wasting no time in taking precautionary measures.
As a result, the outlook for hosting live gatherings across Europe is becoming increasingly uncertain and live poker operators are on the back foot. With the Belgian Poker Challenge canceled and other events in doubt, poker players have little option but to sit tight and see how things play out.