Sydney council’s push for even greater gaming reform

December 14, 2022
Clyde Mooney

Greens Councillor Liz Atkins and Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie are tabling the motion this week for Inner West Council (IWC) to petition both the Premier and Opposition Leader to introduce major changes over and above recent possibilities voiced by Premier Dominic Perrottet.  

The IWC push is thought to include:

  • mandatory cashless gaming
  • a state-wide self-exclusion register – to be funded by gambling tax revenue (versus that proposed by the AHA NSW and ClubsNSW)
  • all EGMs in clubs and pubs to not operate between midnight and 10am

The Councillors driving the initiative display the same mixed messaging that has on so many previous occasions inflamed the debate, while going on to orchestrate no actual change.  

A statement by Cr Atkins referenced a “connection between” gambling and poor mental health, financial stress, domestic violence and even suicide. But she then overstepped the mark by saying “gambling leads to” issues such as increases in “violence against women” and “financial abuse”.

The important point here being that correlations with negatives (such as domestic violence) are absolutely not proof of causation. Studies of mental health consistently find correlation with many ‘unsociable’ behaviours, including addictions to stimuli such as drugs or gambling.

What is tragically naïve of these misinterpretations is that if these social champions are truly looking to help people, they must address the underlying issue (i.e., mental health) and not focus on the symptoms.  

The Councillor’s statement went on to further convolute its own goal by first incorrectly stating that the recent Crime Commission found “billions of dollars of dirty cash from the proceeds of crime is being laundered through NSW poker machines”, which it did not.

Further, on the topic of a voluntary cashless gaming system Atkins suggests this “wouldn’t work” because criminals laundering money will simply not opt in and will continue to use cash. While calling on a misrepresentation of the Crime Commission, this argument simultaneously discounts the previously stated goal of helping potential problem gamblers.

Councillor Liz Atkins was first elected to IWC in December 2021, without prior history as an elected politician. Councillor Pauline Lockie is a progressive independent first elected to Council in 2017, having previously been Deputy Mayor of Inner West Council. 

The women are also calling for Councils to have right of refusal on gaming machine applications in their jurisdiction, as well as for more detailed data on NSW poker machines to be published twice annually, by venues. This information is currently published by Liquor & Gaming, every three months.

They argue that councils are being prevented from having a direct role in the matter, which has long been the mandate of the state regulator, Liquor & Gaming NSW, which brings a broader perspective than a single council.  

Having thus far been somewhat tight-lipped on the matter, NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has come out as saying he is willing to implement reform in the gaming sector, but not before the results of the voluntary trial of cashless gaming cards.

Minns cited concern over the impact major untested reforms could have on the nearly 130k people employed in NSW clubs and pubs.


Tags

Gaming reform, Inner West Council, NSW State Government


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