NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced a plan to make every poker machine in the state cashless by December 2028 if re-elected. Perrottet says this is designed to combat crime and problem gambling. The plan also includes a requirement for gamblers to impose limits on the amount they’re willing to lose. It comes ahead of the NSW election on 25 March. The Opposition does not support statewide cashless gaming.
Australians lose more to gambling each year than any other population in the world, largely due to the prevalence of pokies. NSW has the most machines and the highest losses per person of any Australian jurisdiction. Last year, the NSW Crime Commission recommended a statewide cashless system to crack down on the use of ‘dirty’ money (proceeds of crime) in pokies. Cashless systems are also favoured by some anti-gambling advocates because they can be used to track users and place limits on gambling that can’t be achieved in cash-based systems.
The NSW Government will legislate to introduce cashless gaming on all machines in NSW by the end of 2028. Gamblers will be required to lock in how much they are willing to lose and cannot change this amount for a week. Tracking measures will also ensure gamblers can only use money from a single bank account. The proposal also includes an exclusion register to allow gamblers or their families to shut off their access to machines.
Perrottet also announced a program of loans for clubs and pubs to help them transition to cashless machines, an optional program to buy back machines from venues, and grants of up to $50,000 to help them find new revenue streams such as “live music, entertainment [or] food and beverage”. The Government will also match commitments by the Labor Opposition to ban political donations from pubs and clubs and ban ‘VIP Lounge’ signing.
The Opposition does not support statewide cashless gaming or limits on gambling losses. It proposes a trial of cashless gaming in 500 of the state’s 90,000 machines. As well as banning political donations from the industry and banning ‘VIP Lounge’ signing, Labor also proposes using facial recognition technology to exclude problem gamblers and placing tighter restrictions on venues seeking to acquire new machines.
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At a press conference announcing the proposal, Perrottet called the policy “the largest social, community and law enforcement reform in our state’s history. It will save lives.” Perrottet said he wanted the changes to be made “overnight” but had been advised it would take five years to implement effectively. The NSW Parliament will not sit again before the state election in March. The Government says it would introduce legislation for its policy in the middle of the year if re-elected.
Perrottet says the policy passed through the Government’s Cabinet “unanimously” despite previous reports the National Party was opposed. Perrottet thanked the leader of the Nationals for being “constructive”. However, Police Minister David Elliott (from the Liberal Party) said last month he would excuse himself from Cabinet decisions on pokies. Elliott’s son works in the industry and Elliott himself previously worked at the NSW Australian Hotels Association. He has spoken publicly against “demonising” pokies and argued “nanna… is just going to put that [money] on scratchies and lottery tickets” instead.