In the latest in a series of political developments around gambling regulation in Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) Labor Party has announced a raft of reforms to the sector should it win March’s state elections.
Chris Minns MP, the leader of NSW Labor, posted a series of updates on Twitter confirming the prospective reforms, affecting areas such as advertising, exclusion registers, harm minimisation and payments. The policies were also shared on Labor’s Facebook page.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, Minns went into further detail on the plans, which would be implemented if the party wins the NSW legislative election on 25 March, with the proposals designed on an ‘evidence-based approach’.
“We’ve made a point for the last two months that we would have a comprehensive plan to take to the next election, for voters to make a decision about who has the best plan for problem gaming, as well as illicit behaviour in the gaming institutions across New South Wales,” the MP explained.
“We’ve released that plan, it’s evidence-based, it’s comprehensive and its fully supported by the NSW Shadow Cabinet in a unanimous way.”
Minns also detailed that the planned changes would counter problem gambling and money laundering in NSW pubs and clubs, although Sky noted that the state party has faced criticism from gambling reform groups recently.
The Liberal Party government of Dominic Perrottet pushed forward with a ban on cashless payments in NSW clubs and pubs last year, but the Labor’s lack of support for the plan earned it some condemnation.
This is the most comprehensive reform package in NSW history.
Dominic Perrottet still hasn't released a policy, but here's how ours will work. pic.twitter.com/AekuczKQ4o
— Chris Minns (@ChrisMinnsMP) January 16, 2023
Specifically targeting gaming machines in venues, Labor’s new proposals will see advertising strictly restricted outside of clubs, such as ‘external signage’ around clubs and pubs being banned.
Additionally, in response to its critics, the party has outlined a 12-month roadmap for a cashless gaming trial in the state, with the initial start date being 1 July 2023.
Starting with an initial run of ‘at least 500’ gaming machines – known as ‘pokie machines’ in Australia – across pubs and clubs in high-density metro areas, and would be overseen by an independent panel before being expanded across the state.
This will be accompanied by an AU$500 per machine feed-in limit, a major reduction in the current limit of AU$5,000, although the party noted that older machines will require new technology to be ‘retrofitted’.
Another reform would see clubs with ‘pokie machines’ banned from making political donations, and the overall number of such terminals will be cut down by ‘forced accelerated forfeiture and by reducing NSW-wide machine caps’.
Harm minimisation was another focus, as Labor pledges to invest AU$100m in problem gambling harm reduction programmes – this would include facilitating the aforementioned trial and adopting its recommendations, as well as coordinating gaming machine buy-backs.
Lastly, on responsible gambling and exclusion duties, Labor wants to assign a responsible gambling officer to venues with more than 20 machines as a legal requirement, and the self-exclusion registrar would be expanded to cover ‘the whole state’.
This would allow third party exclusion, such as via family members or police through the courts system, along with the ongoing introduction of facial recognition technology, with an added incentive of cracking down on money launderers.
Minns informed Sky: “We have consulted with the industry, the pubs and clubs industry. We’ve consulted with problem gaming associations and organisations as well over the last week to make sure we’re getting their input,”
“I don’t expect either side of this debate to be thrilled with Labor’s plan but we think it’s fair, we think it’s tough, we think that in addition to the trial the immediate measures that we will take will make a big difference to problem gaming in NSW.”
Gambling has become a point of discussion throughout much of Australian politics over the past year, with a parliamentary group currently evaluating the sector’s societal impact.
However, NSW has been one of the leading states in the debate, having last year increased the Point of Consumption Tax (POCT) of 5%, adopted a new problem gambling campaign and initiated a public consultation for feedback on legislative developments.