NSW Green and One Nation are prepared to work together on enforcing a new cashless payment technology for poker machines. The move comes as a part of an overall push to minimize gambling-related harm in the state.
NSW Green and One Nation Join Forces to Protect Poker Machine Consumers
One Nation and NSW Green are pooling their efforts to enforce new gambling measures that would require from poker machines venues in Australia to adopt cashless payment technology. The measures, proposed by senior cabinet minister Victor Dominello, and endorsed by the Greens and One Nation’s Mark Latham, will most likely garner the legal majority to see the changes become law.
As per the outlined measures, players will have to register for a government-issued gambling card. The cards will be connected with the state’s self-exclusion register and enforce automated bans under the oversight of the Privacy Commissioner.
Poker machines, which number some 95,000 units in the state, bring an estimated $1 billion in tax revenue every year and create as many as 100,000 jobs making the reform one of the most significant the NSW has voted on.
Players who wish to participate in gambling activities will have to register and charge their accounts beforehand. The measure is a direct response to an increased spending on poker machines. According to a government survey, poker machine expenditure has increased by 12% or $200 million in the period between June and August.
Dominello is pushing for other changes to help enforce other strict and consumer-focused gaming policies in the state. The lawmaker wants to roll out facial recognition technology to help detect problem gamblers in a separate draft bill.
One National’s Mark Latham Joins the Call for Cashless Payments
Mark Latham from One National has endorsed the measures but cautioned that any restrictions should not be rushed lest they harm businesses and imperil livelihoods. Mr. Latham is no stranger to problem gambling as his own father has battled addiction.
He argued that problem gambling could cripple entire families and reaffirmed he reaffirmed his commitment to cashless payments. Mr. Latham had been pushing for the measure for close to 20 years.
Reforms, though, should be considered and resonate with what business can handle. He urged for the government to postpone any immediate enforcement until such a time that COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, allowing clubs and pubs to operate normally.
“We don’t want this to hurt jobs because that would create another social problem,” he added. Greens gaming spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann confirmed that there was support for the introduction of a draft harm minimization bill as well as the gaming harm.
“It would be a game-changer,” Ms. Faehrmann noted and continued by saying: “This is not about politics; it’s about helping those thousands of desperate families who have been brave enough to ask for help.”
Support also came from Independent upper house MP Justin Field who has endorsed the measure arguing that it would have a “huge impact.”
Some lawmakers have been even harsher, with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie arguing that 95% of clubs in NSW were operating illegally as they effectively ignored anti-money laundering rules.
Pubs and Clubs Caution Against the Measure
Expectedly, pubs and clubs have been quick to condemn the new legislation, cautioning about serious fallout. They also targeted the proposed facial recognition software, the implementation of which would cost them millions.
Overall, gaming revenue fell by 14% year-over-year, Clubs NSW chief Josh Landis added, with food and beverage takings down almost 70% during the 10-week shutdown period. Many properties were already struggling to survive, said the NSW Australian Hotels Association, and especially pubs.
An NSW Gambling Survey in 2019 said that 92% of excluded gamblers were actually successfully returning to gambling venues and participating in various contests. Cognizant of these challenges, Mr. Dominello said that he was all for the early reopening of clubs and pubs.
He further said that he disagreed with the premise that the reform should be passed up on because it was “too hard.”
“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,” Mr. Dominello continued.
Yet, pubs and clubs seem to only be arguing against when and not if the reform should be implemented. According to one estimate, Australians gambled 67% more on average during the pandemic.