Regional exemptions on the cards for NSW government’s cashless gaming scheme

Transition period that excludes non-metropolitan pokies being considered after concerns raised by Nationals

The Perrottet government is likely to include carveouts for regional pubs and clubs in New South Wales in the rollout of its cashless gaming card policy, and is considering a ban on political donations from the clubs sector.

As Dominic Perrottet lobbies to win support from the Nationals as part of his push for gambling reform in NSW, the government is considering a transition period that excludes non-metropolitan areas from the cashless gaming card.

The policy, which has not yet been finalised, could include an initial pilot program targeting metropolitan poker machines.

After his repeated public backing for a mandatory cashless gaming card, the premier has faced hesitancy from Nationals colleagues, who are nervous about the potential for backlash from the state’s powerful club’s lobby.

The deputy premier and Nationals leader, Paul Toole, on Thursday confirmed that the idea of excluding regional areas from the card was part of the “discussions” over the policy.

Asked if he would support the cashless card if there was an exemption, Toole said it was “part of the ongoing discussions that we’re having”.

“I’ve made it very clear that the road to get there needs to be a sensible one,” he said.

“And we all need to recognise that a large venue in the city is very different to a small venue in the bush.”

Toole said clubs played “a pivotal role in our local communities”.

Perrottet, who has advocated for cashless gaming for months, has faced increased pressure to release details of the policy after Labor announced a suite of gambling policies this week.

While Labor does not support the immediate introduction of cashless gambling, opposition leader Chris Minns announced he would appoint an expert panel to oversee a trial of the new technology if elected in March.

Labor’s policy also included a ban on donations from clubs, something the Coalition is likely to follow. While gambling companies are already prohibited donors in NSW, clubs are excluded because of their not-for-profit status.

The outgoing planning minister, Rob Stokes, a critic of the gaming industry, labelled that an “outrageous loophole” during a speech in parliament last month.

Asked on Thursday whether those rules should be changed, Perrottet said he was “all in favour of donation reform”.

“When it comes to donations, we need to have the highest integrity when it comes to political donations,” he said.

“I’ve been a longstanding advocate for public funding [of elections] because we need to be in a position where the public have the greatest conference possible in elected officials and anything that we can do to increase that we should.”

Perrottet has also repeatedly said that he supports a maximum daily spending cap on poker machines. This week he said a
cashless system “won’t work without a cap”.

The Guardian has previously reported the government has discussed putting the cap at $1,000 a day, in line with limits set for NSW casinos last year.

While some MPs who support the premier’s reforms say that limit would be too high, they also see a higher limit as a potentially necessary compromise to win over both Nationals MPs and Liberals nervous of a voter backlash.


Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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