NSW Labor’s moves on poker machine reform renew pressure on Dominic Perrottet, experts say

Call for detail on proposed cashless gaming scheme as questions raised about opposition’s pledge

Labor’s pledge to ban political donations from pubs and clubs in New South Wales while also introducing a 500-machine trial of cashless pokies has heaped pressure back on the Coalition government to announce details of its plan to overhaul gambling in the state.

Despite anti-gambling advocates and crossbench MPs arguing a new suite of policies announced by Labor on Monday does not go far enough, they have also called for the state’s premier, Dominic Perrottet, to follow suit.

“It does put pressure on the premier to move away from statements and soundbites and offer us some detailed policy and commitments the electorate can assess,” said the chief executive of the Wesley Mission, Stu Cameron.

The premier has earned plaudits from gambling reform advocates for his support for the introduction of a cashless gaming card in NSW, despite hesitancy from some Coalition MPs.

But while he said there was “no ambiguity” around his intention to introduce cashless gaming, Perrottet has yet to outline exactly how the policy would work, including whether the scheme would include daily spending caps.

“The issues around that I will announce as part of a substantive package but you will see very clearly that’s where we’re going,” he said on Monday.

After months of criticism for failing to back the Coalition’s push for a mandatory card, the state Labor leader, Chris Minns, on Monday unveiled a suite of gambling reform policies that he said would tackle “problem gambling and illicit behaviour in the gaming industry”.

The policies – which include bans on “VIP lounge” signs outside pubs and clubs, reduced cash input limits on new pokies and a reduction in the number of machines across the state – also include a mandatory trial of cashless gaming, a move Minns had previously opposed in favour of a voluntary trial.

On Monday Minns said Labor would create an expert panel to oversee the trial, and committed to implementing state-wide cashless gaming if it recommended it. But he said the panel would include “industry participants”, something Cameron warned could hamper its independence.

“It makes sense in that all stakeholders needs to be involved in the process but the devil is in the detail,” he said.

“Independent has to be truly independent. It can’t be a mouthpiece for the gaming lobby.”

Cameron was also critical of the new $500 input level being limited to new machines, saying it could be “easily” rolled out to existing machines, and was “wary” of Labor’s announcement that it would use up to $27m from Star Casino’s $100m fine, to compensate clubs and pubs as part of its trial.

“If there is a huge reduction in revenue the question has to be asked: how much of that is due to a reduction in money being laundered, for example, or from gambling harm? Do we really want [it] to be compensation for a drop in revenue from laundering money? I don’t think anyone would support that,” he said.

Crossbench MPs were also critical of the policy, with the influential independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, saying it wasn’t “strong” enough.

“This is obviously some progress, but it is still not good enough,” he said.

“We will still have at over 85,000 gaming machines in NSW where people can launder money, where gambling harm can be caused, with no end date.”

While the Coalition insists it will announce a policy before the election, Greenwich called for the government to unveil more detail on the policy while also calling Labor’s proposal a “low bar”.

“I do welcome the policy detail from Labor when it comes to gaming reform,” he said.

“We still don’t have that from the New South Wales Coalition government, something that I’ve been calling for and asking for some time now. Let’s hope that they do see Labor’s policy as a low bar and do much better.

“If they don’t the crossbench and independents and the Greens will certainly seek to strengthen any proposal that is put forward to parliament.”


Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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