Dominic Perrottet insists he won’t be “threatened” by the New South Wales clubs lobby into backing down from plans to reform poker machine gambling, after the group said it would campaign against MPs it perceived to be opposed to the sector.
The premier on Monday said his government was focused on “solving a major societal issue” and would not be discouraged by anyone spreading “fear and lies”.
Perrottet’s comments came after details emerged on Monday of a planned campaign against independent MP Helen Dalton, after the Murray MP signed on to a coalition of independent state politicians, community groups and religious organisations seeking gambling reform in the state.
The campaign against Dalton – a former Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party MP – includes plans to distribute posters with the statement “Helen, your attack on local clubs is wrong” to 49 venues across her electorate.
The posters claims a cashless gaming card would cost 503 local club jobs and “risk more than $3.6 million in community support”, though the lobby has not published evidence to support the claim.
The head of ClubsNSW, Josh Landis, told the Daily Telegraph the powerful lobby group was also considering expanding the campaign to target MPs that it believed were “in opposition to clubs” in the wake of Perrottet’s push to introduce a cashless gaming card in the state.
The comments have been widely interpreted as a veiled message to government MPs – particularly the Nationals – to push back against Perrottet’s pursuit of a new cashless gaming card in the wake of a crime commission report that found billions of dollars in “dirty” money is being gambled in pubs and clubs in the state.
The government is yet to release a detailed response to the report, but ClubsNSW has vocally opposed the proposal, insisting it would cost jobs in the sector.
But on Monday, Perrottet hit back at the clubs lobby, saying his government would not be “threatened” into backing down.
“My members are not going to be threatened, because we are focused on doing what’s right. They can say whatever they want … We are focused on solving a major societal issue in relation to money laundering [and] in relation to problem gambling, and we will work with the industry to achieve [that], but we are not going to be threatened.”
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The Nationals leader, Paul Toole, has repeatedly declined to back Perrottet, saying last month that “the technology is not there” to introduce a cashless gaming card.
But the premier said he was focused on outcomes, not politics.
“You don’t go into politics to win elections. You go into politics to do what’s right,” he said.
“That’s what we’re going to do. There’s not an election that passes where people [don’t] run smear campaigns. That’s part of it. People run campaigns based on fear and lies.”
Asked if he was labelling the clubs’ campaign “fear and lies”, he replied “no”.
“I’m saying in every election campaign, there are always, always campaigns – advertising campaigns – that are false, [and] if you are speaking the truth and doing what’s right, you have nothing to fear,” he said.
Dalton – along with the Greens MP Cate Faehrmann – was one of only two MPs who attended the launch of a campaign seeking to reform gambling that’s being led by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, the Uniting Church of NSW and the Wesley Mission. It is seeking the introduction of a cashless gaming card, as well as an independent self-exclusion register.
Her regional electorate includes the Euston Bowling & Recreation Club and Moama Bowling Club, which are among clubs with the highest poker machine revenue outside greater Sydney, and Dalton said she believed there was “huge support” for her position in her electorate.
“I have seen first-hand the issues of problem gambling in my area,” she said.
“I used to be a teacher and I remember seeing kids who couldn’t afford excursions, or a jumper, because they haven’t got the money, and you know that their folks are in the club. I make no apologies for saying gambling should be reined in a little bit.”
In a statement Landis said the premier had “repeatedly said that he wants to work with our industry to achieve cost-effective, workable solutions when it comes to gaming reform, and we are committed to working together to that end”.
“Naturally, clubs across the state are anxious to find out what the government’s plans are in relation to moving towards cashless gaming and we look forward to seeing the details of their proposal,” he said on Monday afternoon.
“As our clubs continue to get back on their feet in the wake of Covid and floods, they are looking to their MPs for support – not additional barriers to their future viability.”