Australia’s NSW Government Extends Gaming Machines Consultation

The New South Wales government, on the east coast of Australia, has extended it consultation series for player protection to December 11, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed measures.

Introduced by Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay on February 20, the Gaming Machines Amendment Bill 2020 is an update to the 2001 Gaming Machines Act, and will push gambling venues to enforce safer practices.

Properties Will Monitor Player Behavior

Clubs and hotels will be asked to monitor gambling behaviors on gaming machines and provide assistance to possible high-risk gamblers. Sanctioned properties will also have to provide resources for counseling players displaying addiction symptoms.

Establishments will have to send staff for training to the Liquor & Gaming NSW’s Responsible Conduct of Gambling seminar, as the presence of a trained staff member (Gambling Contact Officer) will be required when gaming machines are being used. Clubs and hotels will have to list gambling-related incidents and report them to a regulator on request. All cash dispensers will have to be removed from the properties.

New Self-Exclusion Possibilities

Self-exclusion from gambling activities will be possible for players who want to avoid temptation. If they deem it necessary, families and friends can ask venues to deny access to problem players, in order to minimize harm from gambling. Decisions on player exclusion will have to be taken within 21 days after submitting a request.

The new measures aim to ease the self-exclusion process and will replace the current six-month minimum period with shorter periods. This will allow more freedom for players and families and will provide more intuitive self-exclusion programs.

Non-Compliant Venues Face Sanctions

Should the Gaming Machines Bill, properties who fail to enforce the new measures will face increased penalties. Failure to comply with player protection guidelines, installing or not removing cash dispensers, or allowing gamblers to access credit and advertisement malpractices will result in fees ranging between $11,000 and $27,500.

Monitoring Gambling Through Technology

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello suggested a transition to cashless poker machines, which will require players to register for government-issued gambling cards and pre-load money to the card. Cards will be linked to the state’s exclusion register to block excluded players.

The card, overseen and designed by the Privacy Commissioner, was not included in the new law draft but received support from the government.

Facial recognition technology was also added to the draft but found no support from pubs and casinos, who said it would cost millions to implement it, and that the industry is already struggling due to Covid-19.

Clubs NSW chief Josh Landis said: “Gaming revenue has fallen 14% year-on-year as a result of the 10-week industry shutdown, while food and beverage takings are down 60 to 70%, I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements.”

NSW Australian Hotels Association CEO John Whelan also said: “We don’t believe our patrons want to be monitored through facial recognition each and every time they catch up with mates at the pub.”

Mr Dominello said he was determined to use technology to bring the $6 billion Australian gambling industry into the 21st century.

“Pokie machine addiction is an old reality, and we have the technological solution to help which is what we must do when someone asks for it because it’s destroying their life.”, he said.

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