Labor’s pokie policy announcement assures major reform in March

January 17, 2023
Clyde Mooney

Politicking over pokies has burst into 2023, as the NSW opposition Labor Party announces its alternative action regarding the momentum to force cashless gaming into Australia’s biggest state of pubs and clubs.

In the wake of Premier Dominic Perrottet’s pronouncement he would mandate cashless systems in gaming rooms if re-appointed, reform in the sector has blossomed in the media spotlight to become a major election issue in the upcoming NSW election on 25 March.

The incumbent government’s policy promise of a mandatory card to play gaming machines has been criticised as a populist knee-jerk, but the highly religious and sometimes dress up Perrottet has not been swayed, insisting again Monday that the state’s gaming machines are “going to cashless”.

The Labor Party under Chris Minns’ has been under pressure to follow suit, and today unveiled its policy heralding significant reform, should it be elected in March. Labor remains resistant to a full rollout of the proposed cashless system but has committed to a year-long trial beginning July, involving at least 500 machines in both metro and regional precincts.

Minns noted that a trial was critical, for authorities to assess how the technology would impact licensed venues, and particularly the 127k people they employ.

“I said from the outset this is a complicated policy area and we needed an evidenced-based approach to make sure any measures we introduced would work and wouldn’t have any unintended consequences,” said Minns.

Labor’s policy includes plans to introduce third party exclusion for problem gamblers, potentially meaning family or police could have someone prevented from entering a gaming venue.

The reform package also outlined:

  • A plan to reduce the limits on cash feed-in from the current $5k to $500, beginning with newer machines before applying to older machines where possible
  • A ban on the proverbial ‘VIP lounge’ signs
  • Reduction in the overall number of machines, by increasing compulsory forfeiture from one machine for every three EGMs traded to one in every two
  • Banning financial donations to political parties by clubs with gaming machines

While measures to reduce the money through and rising value of EGMs have persisted for years, little has changed outside the brief spotlight of a looming election.

Unrelenting in the sensationalising of most election issues but most especially anything deemed socially controversial, mainstream media has beat the topic into a pavlova-like Pavlovian response by the hapless public, who could be mistaken for thinking the ownership of licensed venues is akin to child slavery. 

The SMH politely accused “hotel barons” of scrambling to protect their ‘millions in personal wealth’ even as it perpetuates the mis-reporting that last year’s Crime Commission report stipulated “criminals were ploughing billions of dollars through poker machines”.

This balanced expose included naming and denigrating the owners of top Sydney gaming pubs the Markets Hotel, Ambulance Station and Wentworth Hotel, suggesting they were ashamed to answer questions for the hit-job article.

Australian Hotels Association NSW reports it is considering the full detail of Labor’s newly announced plans but reiterates it has never been supportive of “an unproven, untested and un-costed cashless gaming system”.


cashless gaming, NSW Labor Party, Reform

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