Landis sacked as Clubs CEO over comments on Perrottet

February 1, 2023
Clyde Mooney

The face and CEO of ClubsNSW, Josh Landis, has been stood down by the board in a sudden reaction to a comment the Association boss made on the Premier’s possible motives for pushing gaming reform.

The chain of events began on Monday, when ClubsNSW announced its new gaming code of practice, as its solution in the political discussion going on around EGM reform ahead of the March election. Landis gave the customary interviews on the announcement to assorted publications.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the SMH released its article resulting from a Landis interview, latching on to the fact that the Clubs boss had cited the Premier’s well-known Catholicism as a possible influence in his thinking on gaming reform.  

Josh Landis

“He’s going to struggle because he can’t satisfy everybody,” Landis was quoted as saying.

“I think it’s fair to say that the premier has very little understanding of this issue and has acted from his conservative Catholic gut rather than based on evidence.”

The article referenced the ‘Catholic gut’ description in the headline, but mostly focused on the announcement, about a new mandatory code of conduct for all NSW clubs, incorporating regular welfare checks on all EGM players, responsible gambling officers, family members able to request exclusions, and automatic banning of parents who leave kids in cars while they gamble.

Landis said to the Herald there is no evidence that money going through the machines was coming from people who could not afford it.

“I’m not worried about how much money is spent on poker machines, I’m worried about those people who can’t afford it … They are a tiny minority, for whom we need to do more.”

But the Catholic comment by Landis did not go unnoticed, and later that morning NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was on 2GB hitting back at claims his beef with gaming is religiously motivated, saying it’s “untrue”. While denying he found it offensive, he suggested it was an “attack” on people of faith in general.

Without offering specifics on how his position has been reached, Perrottet maintains that his views on gaming in NSW are not a result of him being Catholic, but because “I believe that this is the right thing to do”.

Despite the remark falling very short of a legal definition for libel, the unoffended Premier proffered that Landis’ opinion could be grounds for resignation.

A media feeding frenzy naturally ensued, as the original comment was shopped around for response with anti-gaming advocates – tragically outweighing any benefit that should have been seen in the Clubs announcement.

Most stories, eager to feed on the controversy, chose to champion a politically vulnerable Premier against the would-be boogey man of all things terrible. This completely misses the significance of Landis’ broader explanation, arguing the current Premier has “create[d] hyper-anxiety among the industry and among people who go to clubs, and hyper-excitement among those who want reform”.

Shortly after midday, a statement was issued by Josh Landis, unreservedly apologising for the comments published by the SMH, offering that it was not premeditated or an intentional attack and he had misspoken.

“The comments were made during a phone call with a journalist late yesterday afternoon, who asked why I believe the Premier is so insistent on introducing a mandatory cashless system and other gaming reforms,” came the statement.

“I contacted the Premier earlier today to apologise personally. I would like to take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise publicly for any offence caused.”

Since Perrottet first pronounced his intended push for poker machine reform and cashless gaming, sparked by the report from the NSW Crime Commission, he has repeatedly vowed to not back down but is yet to produce an actual policy framework or even a plan for cabinet.

The forty-year-old assumed office on 5 October 2021, having struck a deal with Liberal party powerbrokers, following the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian.

He grew up in a family that were members of the Catholic prelature, Opus Dei, and is a vocal conservative Catholic who in recent years voted against decriminalising abortion and voluntary euthanasia. Echoing the cries of America’s evangelicals, he praised the election of Donald Trump, calling it “time for a conservative spring”.

Landis’ removal takes place as a growing list of MPs have demand his resignation. Alex Greenwich reiterated his displeasure on Tuesday, calling Landis’ suggestion a “personal attack” on the Premier. Greenwich has previously made it known his support in government is absolutely conditional on the introduction of a mandatory cashless gaming card throughout NSW.

By mid-afternoon ClubsNSW released its own statement on the matter, explaining that the board had met for a special consideration of the news, and “made the decision to end Mr Landis’ employment with ClubsNSW with immediate effect”.

“The Board acknowledges Josh Landis’ exemplary service to the industry over more than 15 years through some very difficult times.

“We genuinely wish him all the best on his future endeavours.”


Tags

Catholic, ClubsNSW, Gaming reform, Josh Landis, NSW Premier


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