With a likely move to alert level 2 in the coming weeks, pubs and taverns across New Zealand are getting ready to welcome back players to their gaming rooms.

Gaming Machine Association of NZ chairman Bruce Robertson said a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to make gaming rooms safe for players and ensure social distancing rules can be enforced.

"Gaming rooms lend themselves well to providing a safe environment. Due to the need to ensure safe gambling practices, they're already carefully managed and closely supervised. No rooms have more than 18 machines, so it's easy to take note of who is playing and when."

Robertson expressed some surprise at the fears from the Problem Gambling Foundation that their clients would be at risk when gaming rooms re-open.

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He said he would have expected the PGF to ensure their clients have taken advantage of the highly effective Venue Exclusion system in place for all venues.

"Venue Exclusion ensures the small percentage of players with a gambling problem are unable to access gaming rooms.

"What's more, with improved systems for managing excluded players and an increasing number of gaming rooms with facial recognition technology, it is increasingly easy to identify them and deny them access.

"The requirement for venues to identify and record all customers will only enhance existing systems," he said in a recent press release.

"When the lockdown was announced, we were already implementing initiatives to support safe play, ensure social distancing, and enable customer tracking," GMANZ and Hospitality New Zealand Board member Tony Crosbie said. "We are ready."

He said people had seen in the media how small businesses have been struggling under the lockdown, and pubs and taverns are no different.

Most of these have had zero income and getting gaming up and running will be vital for when they re-open, he said.

"We're also hearing every day from charities who are struggling. They include groups that provide support to vulnerable people in our communities. They're environmental groups, arts groups, sports groups, schools, ambulances, rescue – the list is endless.

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"The current environment is tough for everyone, and they will need the community funding our gaming rooms provide more than ever," Robertson said.

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