NSW Labor promises to ban political donations from clubs amid fight over poker machines

Opposition leader Chris Minns pledges to reduce number of machines as Dominic Perrottet hits out at Bob Carr

New South Wales Labor has sought to outflank the Coalition in its push for gambling reform ahead of the March election, announcing it will expand political donation bans to include the clubs sector while reducing the number of poker machines in the state.

The new suite of reforms also include an expanded 500-machine trial of cashless gaming, bans on “VIP lounge” signage outside pubs and clubs and reduced cash input limits on new pokies.

This comes as Labor seeks to fight off criticisms from anti-gambling advocates after it refused to support Dominic Perrottet’s push to introduce cashless gaming across the state.

It would see Labor ban political parties from accepting financial donations from clubs that have gaming machines if it the party wins government in March, as well as limiting cash feed-in limits to $500 a machine for all new poker machines – down from the current limit of $5,000.

“I said from the outset this is complicated policy area and we needed an evidenced based approach to make sure any measures we introduced would work and wouldn’t have any unintended consequences,” the opposition leader, Chris Minns, said on Monday.

“We’ve worked with a range of stakeholders to get the balance right.

“Labor is leading the way – from today Labor will not accept donations from clubs with gaming machines. The Liberals and Nationals should make the same commitment.”

Under Labor’s promised reforms, the number of machines in the state will be reduced by cutting the entitlement cap to be in line with the existing number of machines, and having every second poker machine traded between venues will be forfeited, instead of every third machine under the current regime.

While a mandatory cashless gaming scheme is off the cards for now, Labor said it will fund a wide-scale trial partly funded by the $100m fine issued to Star Casino.

Minns said the cost of the trial could be as high as $27m, based on a 50% reduction in gaming on each machine used. The rest of the funds would be put towards harm-reduction measures including an additional $10m a year into the existing Responsible Gambling Fund.

He defended using Star’s fine to compensate clubs and pubs, saying the move was necessary to ensure participation in the scheme.

Minns also said he would instruct his party to begin refusing donations from the clubs and pubs lobby, but money already received during this campaign would not be returned because in many cases it had “already been spent”.

Labor will also announce an expanded exclusion regime that will allow family members and police to apply for exclusions on third parties believed to have a gambling problem or to be engaged in money laundering.

The move comes as the premier seeks to put his re-election bid back on track after last week’s extraordinary revelations he wore a Nazi uniform to his 21st birthday, launching an attack on former Labor premier Bob Carr by accusing him of putting poker machines “on every corner”.

Perrottet’s attack came after Carr labelled him “unelectable” in the wake of the revelations.

“He opened it up,” Perrottet said Monday.

“We have more pokie machines in NSW than anywhere outside of Nevada and who was responsible for that? The Bob Carr Labor government, and we are still cleaning up that mess.”

Perrottet has staked his reputation on taking on the powerful clubs lobby in the lead up to the election, while facing opposition from Labor and in his own cabinet room, to be able to introduce a cashless gaming card in the state.

But Carr immediately fired back, claiming Perrottet would probably be “forgotten in a flash” after the election.

“There have been four Coalition premiers and 12 years of Coalition rule since my time in government,” Carr said. “Any aspect of my policies, including on poker machines, could have been comprehensively reversed in that time.

“In the meantime, the Nuremberg parade ground dispositions of this premier make him unworthy to lead the state.

“It’s now a matter of whether, stimulated by a photo, or something else, his party removes him before the voters do..”

Minns has refused to attack Perrottet over the incident saying he believed Perrottet’s apology over the incident was genuine.

Perrottet is yet to announce how he will introduce cashless gambling.

The treasurer, Matt Kean, also criticised members of his own party as “horrible cowards” for starting rumours of a photograph of Perrottet wearing the Nazi uniform.


Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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