An 11th-hour plan from ClubsNSW targeting problem gambling across the state will not be enough to stop the government from pushing ahead with the introduction of a cashless gaming scheme, the premier, Dominic Perrottet, says.
The powerful clubs lobby on Monday revealed its gaming code of practice, which would see suspected criminals banned from venues and welfare checks on poker machine players every three hours.
The scheme was unveiled with less than two months to go before the state election in which gambling reform is shaping up as a key policy battleground. It was met with scepticism by anti-gambling campaigners, including Tim Costello, who said it was “too little, too late”.
ClubsNSW’s chief executive, Josh Landis, said the code would sort out many of the state’s gaming problems, in combination with facial recognition technology, which he argued would negate the need for a cashless scheme.
“Unlike the proposed mandatory cashless card, the code is a cost-effective and targeted approach to gaming reform,” he said.
“Introducing facial recognition technology in clubs will ensure problem gamblers will be kept out of club gaming rooms and criminals won’t be able to step foot inside a club.”
While Perrottet welcomed to code, he reiterated his intention to introduce cashless gaming statewide as part of the Coalition government’s long-awaited response to the crime commission report that found widespread laundering through machines.
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“We need to do everything we can in relation to reducing problem gambling in NSW,” he said.
“This is a serious issue that needs a detailed and comprehensive response. We will respond to the crime commission report shortly and you’ll see the detail in it.”
Labor has promised to cut the number of machines and introduce a cashless gaming trial on 500 of the state’s 90,000 machines.
The ClubsNSW plan includes mandatory training for staff in gaming venues to help them identify problem gamblers.
Patrons asking for gambling credit or attempting to borrow money from other patrons would be banned from gaming rooms and offered counselling.
A person’s family members would also be allowed to request a ban if they believed that person was suffering because of gambling, which would then be assessed by a counsellor who could recommend the club impose the ban.
Costello, the chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the code was a “long confessional note” that described all the problems the industry had long been ignoring,
“This was clearly designed to stave off what they fear most – a cashless card,” he said.
“They have completely failed to even implement the weak regulation to protect problem gamblers in the past and now, like an electoral deathbed conversion, they’ve discovered they should be getting rid of laundering, kids left at machines and people playing too long.”
The NSW Council of Social Service’s acting chief executive, Ben McAlpine, said the proposal did not go far enough and self-regulation would not solve problem gambling.
“The current regulatory framework for responsible gambling is not working, so that’s why the government needs to step in and implement a solution,” he said.
“Some of these proposals that [ClubsNSW] is putting in would surprise people to think that that’s not what is currently being done.”