Claiming extensive consultation with industry, Premier Perrottet has unveiled his election policy to overhaul to the operation of poker machines, heralded to finally “put a stop to problem gambling”.
The changes are to be implemented under a re-elected Liberal government, after the Premier kick-started gaming reform as an election issue last year.
This was prompted from the results of the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), which had been tasked with investigating the nature and extent of money laundering in NSW, particularly through gaming machines.
Under pressure to release policy details, after Labor outlined its response mid-January, Perrottet’s government has now outlined a collection of measures that it says supports all recommendations of the NSWCC to eliminate money laundering in gaming venues.
Most significantly, the Premier holds on his mandate to introduce mandatory cashless gaming in all NSW venues.
To play machines, gamblers will need to be registered, with their personal details associated with a bank account, for verification. No credit allowed. They must impose their own daily loss limit, which can only be changed after seven days.
Also, spouses and children will be able to block cards from use, and players can self-exclude.
All new machines purchased once the rollout commences – beginning early 2024 – will need to be cashless, and all machines must be cashless by 31 December 2028.
Any new machine purchased from July this year will need to have a ‘load up’ limit of $500.
The rules will also mandate breaks in play for players and implement a state-wide self-exclusion register.
And the use of VIP Lounge signage will be prohibited.
The Liberals have also upped Labor’s pledge and are banning political donations from both pubs and clubs, and ramping up the reduction scheme, hoping to acquire 2,000 machines over five years.
Pre-empting concerns over privacy, the policy stresses that personal player data “can only be used for law enforcement” and not for other purposes.
But the policy has already faced backlash, specifically on the matters of the long rollout dates and the absence of daily limits for players.
In response, citing consultation with experts and industry, it’s said the five-year period is required for the tech implementation, and that any pre-commitment is the goal, despite the point previously made that pre-set limits can encourage those with a gambling problem to spend more.
The Premier believes his solution will end cash-washing in venues, which will be no worse for the measures.
“This package today protects jobs, protects the industry and does so in a way that stamps out money laundering in NSW in pubs and clubs and stops problem gambling,” claims Dominic Perrottet.
It is suggested the Premier is not fully aware or has not paid heed to the likely impact on industry and employment, or the NSW Budget – let alone the immediate costs involved for operators.
ClubsNSW is concerned about the significant costs and technical challenges associated with the Coalition’s proposal to implement a mandatory cashless gaming system.
“We’re particularly concerned about the implications for small, regional clubs and the impact this will have on jobs across the industry,” said a spokesperson for ClubsNSW.
And while there are currently four trials of various forms of cashless gambling either underway or about to start across NSW, the evidence is still not in as to whether the cashless systems will actually help problem gamblers.
ClubsNSW say they are committed to working with whomever wins the March election to combat problem gambling and keep criminals out of gaming venues.