The Queensland government is being accused of favouring casinos as small business owners struggle to adapt to the new ID scanning regulations introduced across the state earlier this month.
The new legislation came into effect on July 1st, requiring any venue trading past midnight within a Safe Night Precinct (SNPs) to install an approved ID scanner at all entrances. If a venue has not installed an approved ID scanner, they are not allowed to accept any new patrons past 10PM.
Queensland’s casinos are exempt from the ID scanning requirements, leaving many bar owners frustrated as the casinos continue to thrive while they feel the weight of the new liquor licensing burdens.
Elie Moubarak, who owns several late-night establishments, said his venues were experiencing a 40 per cent drop in turnover compared to the same time last year. He believes the casinos are exploiting their privilege by hosting big name acts with strong marketing campaigns, which is something they haven’t done in the past.
Mr Moubarak said, “They don’t have the hold-ups with ID scanners, they don’t have half the regulations we do, it really makes it easy for them when it isn’t a level playing field.”
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath defended the casino exemption, saying the ID scanning regulations did not apply because the level of security in casinos already far exceeded other licensed venues.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General said, “Surveillance is a core part of a casino’s business and, unlike licenced venues, they must have cameras throughout the premises, including in gaming and bar areas, which are monitored by dedicated surveillance operators.”
But local business owners are not buying it, as they are convinced the government is favouring casinos due to the financial contributions they make. The Star Casino on the Gold Coast contributed $28,000 to the Queensland Labour Party over the past 18 months, while also hosting a fundraiser on behalf of Ms D’Ath.
Safe Night Precincts (SNPs) have been established in key entertainment areas across Queensland, including Brisbane and Surfers Paradise. Licensees say the ID scanning requirements have had a significant impact on the entry process, slowing operations down and creating long queues. The ID scanners have also reported all kinds of problems, including failure to recognise foreign IDs. Some small bars say they will be forced to close mid-week, while others are beginning to cut back their liquor licenses, which is having a huge impact on their businesses.
Statistics have revealed 31 licensees within SNPs have already applied to reduce their late night trading hours to a midnight close, seven days a week.
Queensland Hotels Association chief executive Bernie Hogan said, “It is damaging Queensland as a destination and that’s what we said right from the beginning. We are concerned about the long-term impact this has for our tourism brand.”
Detailed information about the ID scanning requirements can be found on the Queensland Government’s official website.