December 2, 2021
Law & Politics
A new COVID variant known as Omicron and a fresh wave of restrictions are sweeping across Europe. Even with evidence suggesting that Omicron may not be as deadly as initially expected, European countries are ramping up their COVID restrictions.
For clarity, the situation in a number of European countries was changing before Omicron was discovered. For example, King’s Resort was forced to alter the WSOPE schedule after the Czech government declared a state of emergency on Nov. 25.
However, with Omicron adding to the recent increase in European COVID cases, the rules are changing again. As we witnessed in 2020 and again earlier this year, things are always subject to change. So, in an effort to keep you up to date with the latest COVID rules as they apply to poker, CardsChat has taken a look at a handful of European countries.
Face masks remain mandatory inside casinos and poker rooms in Germany. COVID infections rates continue to climb, despite Germany having some of the strictest mask mandates in Europe. Unlike countries with no minimum requirements on what constitutes a face covering, German cities such as Hamburg define what’s expected.
“Clothes shall not serve as appropriate face masks. Transparent plastic visors are not classified as face masks for the purpose of these regulations,” reads the local COVID rules for Hamburg.
In addition to medical-grade face masks, German poker rooms have social distancing measures in place and visitors have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. The good news is that casinos are still open. However, this could change as the federal government is currently pondering the possibility of closing venues such as bars and, possibly, imposing another lockdown.
Portugal reintroduced COVID restrictions on Dec. 1 and that means poker players now have to wear face masks in enclosed spaces. Additionally, casinos in Portugal now require visitors to provide proof of vaccination or immunity (test taken within 48 hours). If neither of those is possible, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours is acceptable. These rules will remain in place until March 2022, at the earliest.
Spanish poker rooms are open. Casino Barcelona recently announced that cash games and tournaments are back on the menu. However, as it was in the summer of 2020, visitors have to wear face masks at all times inside the casino. Visitors will also have their temperature checked, but proof of vaccination isn’t an entry requirement.
We know from alterations to the WSOPE and the cancellation of EPT Prague that things in the Czech Republic have changed over the past two weeks. Face masks aren’t mandatory at the poker table, but the casino is closed to anyone without provable immunity or a vaccine pass. Public venues in the Czech Republic are also subject to capacity limits and a 10 pm curfew.
Italian casinos have asked visitors to provide proof of vaccination, immunity, or a negative test since August. But, as of Dec. 6, only proof of vaccination will be valid. Masks are also mandatory for indoor settings. Like other parts of Europe, these rules are subject to change, and, in turn, regional restrictions can impact what’s required.
Twenty towns in Italy’s South Tyrol province have already imposed an 8pm curfew on businesses. This isn’t currently affecting Italy’s casinos, but similar restrictions could come into force elsewhere in the country if infections continue to rise.
Face masks are now mandatory in all indoor settings. Venues in which COVID passes were already necessary had been exempt from the mask mandate but, following a change to the rules on Nov. 29, masks must be worn in all indoor settings.
Additionally, French casinos will only admit people with a COVID pass, proof of immunity (less than six months old), or a negative test (taken within 72 hours of arrival).
Venues and police officers will be enforcing the rules. Anyone caught breaking the rules will be fined €135 ($159). Local governments also have the power to implement extra restrictions and safety measures at their discretion. The tightening of rules comes as COVID infections in France jumped from fewer than 7,000 per day in October to nearly 50,000 in November.
Face masks and COVID passes remain compulsory in a variety of public settings, including casinos. Following the discovery of Omicron, the Dutch government has made social distancing mandatory in all indoor venues. Additionally, there are capacity limits at gaming tables, and casinos have to close at 5pm every day until Dec. 18, at the earliest.
The UK reintroduced mask mandates for shops and public transport on Dec. 1 amid concerns about the Omicron variant. In Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, face coverings and vaccine passes are required in various public settings, including at bingo halls.
In England, they’re not required in any public setting other than in shops, taxis, buses, and trains. There is also no requirement to show proof of vaccination, immunity, or a negative test to enter casinos in England.
Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.
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