NSW’s largest RSL and leagues clubs are planning to roll out trial digital gaming wallets for poker machines as an alternative to a proposal by Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello.
“ClubsNSW has long advocated that people should have the ability to pay for play on a poker machine using cash, a digital wallet or a debit card. Just as they have options in how they pay for anything else, we believe in empowering the customer — so long as it is safe to do so from a responsible gambling perspective. We are pleased to hear that a mandatory gambling card is no longer favoured and we can proceed with trialling various technology options.”
Mr Dominello’s proposed mandatory card, a bid to eliminate money laundering and problem gambling, was widely opposed by the club and pub industry. But the latest proposal has been accepted by ClubsNSW.
“ClubsNSW has long advocated that people should have the ability to pay for play on a poker machine using cash, a digital wallet or a debit card,” a spokesperson said. “Just as they have options in how they pay for anything else, we believe in empowering the customer — so long as it is safe to do so from a responsible gambling perspective. We are pleased to hear that a mandatory gambling card is no longer favoured and we can proceed with trialling various technology options.”
ClubsNSW had rejected calls for the mandatory gambling card saying the international experience demonstrates such a card won’t help problem gamblers and will discourage casual players from wanting to play machines.
Nova Scotia in Canada abandoned a gaming card program in 2014 where players would use preloaded cards instead of cash, but the card was not identity-linked so, in theory, players were able to swap and share multiple cards.
ClubsNSW says that the cost of introducing such a card could also cripple smaller clubs.
“Economic modelling indicates that the impact of a gambling card would cause the loss of more than 9,000 club jobs across the state,” a ClubsNSW spokesperson said.
“It would also mean less financial support for grassroots sport, charities and other community groups — particularly in regional areas — because clubs would have to spend money on the card system instead of helping those who need it most.”
The Herald reported that Mr Dominello accepted that the RSL and leagues clubs’ proposal for the cashless wallet came with “appropriate design and regulation” and it would be a positive step towards stamping out organised crime.
“Critical design features include the wallet being linked to identity, linked to a bank account and with harm minimisation protections,” Mr Dominello said.
“Industry has also advocated for an open-access model so that each venue maintains its own autonomy whilst still being able to use cards in other venues. I very much support this approach.”
He said he now wanted to work with the industry and the Office of Responsible Gambling to fast-track a digital gaming wallet trial. The government would have access to the data from the trial.
The card proposal follows former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin’s handing down of a report that followed an 18-month inquiry into Crown Resorts, which revealed allegations of money laundering. Justice Bergin said such a card could be a “powerful mechanism” against organised crime.
Philip Crawford, the head of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, has also supported electronic gaming cards saying they should be introduced to avoid shifting the problem of money laundering into pubs and clubs once casinos introduce stricter controls as has been proposed following the Bergin report.
“In relation to money laundering, the State Government’s Central Monitoring System is already capable of identifying suspicious gambling activities so that it can alert the proper authorities — the federal regulator AUSTRAC and NSW Police,” the ClubsNSW spokesperson said.
The card plan also coincides with an increase in poker machine expenditure in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the NSW government revealed gamblers across the state lost $2.17bn to poker machines in clubs from June to November 2020, up seven per cent on the same period in 2019.
“The official Liquor & Gaming NSW report confirms our concerns and identifies several risks associated with a gambling card, including overspending and increased losses,” the ClubsNSW spokesperson said.
“ClubsNSW believes there are better, more workable solutions that can be explored when it comes to addressing problem gambling — but a mandatory gambling card won’t work and will hurt.”
Mr Dominello said the cashless card would allow authorities to be able to better track the source of money being gambled and avoid cash being laundered through any poker machine, be it in a club, pub or casino. It has also been claimed that the card could also be used to put limits on problem gamblers. Financial data and privacy concerns have also been raised.