No pass, no entry. That’s the possible future for poker tournament players in England as Parliament considers new COVID-19 rules that could go into effect as early as Wednesday.
Parliament is due to vote on the issue of COVID passes today and the plans outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson would see select, large-scale venues, including nightclubs and sports events, require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry.
All indications are that the vote will go Johson’s way, but he’ll need the support of the opposition Labour party to get it through. More than 70 MPs within Johnson’s own party, including Steve Baker, are set to rebel against the vaccine passports.
🙏A HUGE thank you to everyone who has expressed support today – it means so much
— Steve Baker MP FRSA (@SteveBakerHW) December 12, 2021
For poker players, the vote is likely to mean that live tournaments in England, at least in the short team, will require a COVID pass. Per the new guidelines, any indoor event with 500 or more people who are “expected to stand or move around” has to make COVID passes a condition of entry.
Poker tournaments in an uncertain position
Poker tournaments do require a certain amount of movement. However, the guidelines also state that, if attendees are “assigned seats for the duration of the event,” a COVID pass isn’t required.
Players are moved around to balance tables during a tournament as people inevitably bust out of the event. To what extent this would be classified as “movement” is unclear, however, and we won’t know for sure until the new rules come into force on Dec. 15.
In the event COVID passes are required for live poker tournaments with 500+ people, entry will be granted on one of three conditions:
- The person is vaccinated with two doses of an approved vaccine; this will require the person to show/scan the NHS COVID app
- The person has taken a PCR or rapid lateral flow test within the last 48 hours (ideally, within 12 hours); a negative test must be shown upon entry
- Any person who’s exempt on medical grounds or taking part in a clinical trial won’t have to show a COVID pass
The new guidance does state that COVID passes won’t be required for entry to a casino. That’s good news to some in the industry, such as Ian Haworth, a representative for the Hippodrome, who signed the Open for All Charter opposing vaccination passports.
COVID passes might not be necessary, but masks are
What will remain a condition of entry for casinos, at least until January, is facemasks. Following an initial wave of uncertainty, casinos in England confirmed that visitors need to wear a mask while inside and at a gaming table.
COVID passes have been particularly controversial in England for much of 2021. Senior government ministers, including Health Secretary Sajid Javid, backtracked on the idea in September. However, with money already invested in the NHS app and the Omicron variant causing panic, the idea is back on the table.
Such passes have become commonplace in European venues, including in casinos, in recent months. Although COVID infection rates have continued to climb in countries such as Germany (see image above) where passes have been used since the summer, Johnson believes they can help stem the tide in England.