The Minns administration is forging ahead with its gambling reforms, announcing the massively expanded cashless trial as the Federal government closes the loophole on credit cards.
Since being elected last March, the Minns government has implemented multiple reforms, including reducing the cash input limit for all new EGMs from 1 July (from $5k to $500), reducing the state-wide cap on entitlements, banning political donations from clubs with gaming, removing VIP signage on gaming rooms, and investing $100m into gambling harm minimisation over the next four years.
A high-profile component of the election promises, the cashless gaming trial will provide information and recommendations for the government, and is to be overseen by the Independent Panel on Gaming Reform (IPGR), established last July.
The testing will also measure impacts on employees, the infrastructure requirements and costs.
“This trial is bigger, broader and delivers nine times more machines than we committed to during the election campaign,” champions Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris.
The expanded trial will include around 4,500 machines, across 28 clubs and hotels (list below), across 24 metropolitan and regional LGAs.
Venues selected comprise 20 clubs, with major locations such as West HQ, and eight hotels, some operated by industry leaders such as Merivale, Solotel and ALH.
“The strong interest in participating in the cashless gaming trial proves just how serious clubs and hotels are about working with the government to reduce gambling harm and money laundering associated with electronic gaming machines,” furthers Harris.
To participate venues had to meet strict requirements, which included having a minimum of 10 machines, no adverse gambling-related compliance history in the past five years, harm minimisation and AML protections, and data security and privacy controls. They also had to facilitate staff training to support patrons to use the cashless technology.
This trial is in addition to the already completed trials at Wests Newcastle and Club York, involving more than 250 machines, which have provided important early insights to the IPGR. It brings collaboration across industry interests, counting ClubsNSW, Wesley Mission, academia, law enforcement and unions.
To facilitate the trial, five technology providers have been given conditional approval to participate, including Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) members Aristocrat, eBet, IGT and Light & Wonder (former Bally).
Machines being used fitted with cashless payment technologies can still accept cash.
“The trial is complex and costly, but we are committed to finding a path forward and working with the NSW Government,” offers Jinesh Patel, GTA CEO.
Set to begin during the first quarter of 2024, the IPGR is scheduled to report to government by November.
The goal is to provide insights into the use of cashless gaming technology in hotels and clubs, particularly the effects on reducing gambling harm and money laundering. No jurisdiction in Australia has to date implemented a state-wide cashless gaming system.
It has not been specified if regular data from the machines, including any normal cash transactions, will be used in comparison with the cashless data.
And there has been no speculation on what may result from the trial, such as if it is found that the take-up rate by patrons is low or that revenues through the cashless system would spell turmoil for the venues and broader industry. In the past six months the value of entitlements in NSW has plummeted more than 30 per cent.
The matter of problem gamblers being discouraged from venues and instead heading online, as was seen to great effect during the pandemic shutdowns, has been further addressed with new Federal legislation to clamp down on credit in gambling and off-shore operators.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 amends the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, to prohibit: the use of credit cards; payments from accounts linked to credit cards, services or facilities; digital currency; and interactive gambling.
The legislation will also have relevance for every licensed operator, and has been seen by many as a ‘long-overdue’ real move to both mitigate gambling harm and provide operators greater security.
Following final administrative approvals a six-month grace period will begin, to give operators time to comply.
Venues conditionally approved in the cashless trial:
Auburn Tennis Club
Broken Hill Musicians Club
Cabra-Vale Ex-Active Servicemen’s Club
Crows Nest Hotel
Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club
Dubbo RSL Memorial Club
Fingal Bay Sports Club
Golden Sheaf Hotel
Juniors Malabar RSL Club
Juniors Maroubra RSL Club
Moama Bowling Club
Nags Head Hotel
Pittwater RSL Club
Ramsgate RSL Club
Royal Hotel Bondi
Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen’s Club
St George Leagues Club
St Marys Rugby League Club
The Duke Hotel
The Stag & Hunter Hotel
Twin Towns Services Club
Worrigee Sports Club
Wyong Rugby League Club