NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced the details of the gaming reform policy that the Coalition will be taking into the March state election.

The Coalition leader announced the gaming reform policy as “the largest social community and law enforcement reform in our state’s history.”

“It will save lives. It will protect jobs and ensure that our communities across New South Wales are stronger now and into the future.”

The most significant announcement was the move to legislate mandatory cashless gaming across the state by no later than 31 December 2028, with all new machines purchased from 2024 to be cashless.

The Premier announced additional measures as part of the Coalition’s gaming reform policy, including:

  • An optional buy-back scheme to acquire 2000 EGMs off venues over the next five years;
  • Banning political donations from pubs and clubs;
  • Players will need to set their own spending limits, which will not be allowed to increase for seven days;
  • Breaks in play will be mandated;
  • A statewide self-exclusion register will be established;
  • Credit and automoatic top-ups will be banned, with gaming funds only to flow from a bank account; and
  • Enabling player identity verification to a single bank account in a bid to stop money laundering.

In a bid to protect player privacy, the Premier stated that strict privacy protections for player data would be legislated, with no government or industry access to personalised player data, other than for law enforcement purposes, with strict penalties for misuse.

Pub and club support measures

The Premier acknowledged that venues would need support during the transition to these new gaming reform measures, which would curtail gaming revenue.

“We’ll provide extensive support for pubs and clubs across New South Wales as we move through this. We have stood side-by-side with pubs and clubs across New South Wales during some of the darkest days of the pandemic. And as we embark on this journey, we’ll be doing exactly the same,” stated Premier Perrottet.

The Premier stated that the Government would provide  small and medium-sized pubs and clubs with interest-free loans during the transition period, as well as providing a one-off diversification grant of up to $50,000 to be paid to small and medium sized pubs and clubs to support the pursuit of new revenue streams. It will also be available for those businesses who join the buy-back scheme.

“These funds will be invested in live music, entertainment, in food and beverage, and will provide that support for small and medium pubs and clubs across New South Wales,” stated Perrottet.

A separate regional fund of $40 million will be established for regional and rural pubs with EGMs, as well as a $20 million fund for small venues.

“We will stand side by side with pubs and clubs during this transition. This will be a journey that we will do together, and that will make change that will benefit not just people today, but our children and their children as well,” the Premier stated.

“That’s what this change is all about. It fixes problem gambling. It fixes money laundering, and at the same time, protects jobs and supports our pubs and clubs across our state.”

If the Coalition were to remain in government after the March election, a Transition Taskforce is expected to be created in April, that will be led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and will include representatives from Liquor & Gaming NSW, NSW Police, industry representatives and harm minimisation experts. The taskforce will set out a roadmap to begin implementing the new gaming policy from 2024.

Industry reaction

With the policy just announced, the AHA NSW and its members are considering the full detail of the Coalition’s new gaming policy. However, AHA NSW’s Director of Liquor and Policing John Green said that the association has always supported an evidence-based approach to cashless gaming.

“The NSW hotel industry is disappointed the Coalition has announced it will set a commencement date of 31 December 2028 without having any understanding of how cashless gaming will be rolled out.

“This includes the actual costs involved, the impact on industry, employment, the NSW Budget and whether it will actually help problem gamblers,” stated Green.

“We’re particularly concerned this policy won’t help problem gamblers but will instead drive away the majority of casual players who won’t sign up for a government-mandated gaming account linked directly to their own bank accounts.

“There are currently four trials of various forms of cashless gambling either underway or about to start across NSW. It is disappointing the Coalition has set a fixed commencement date before considering any of the information learnt from these trials.”

The AHA NSW is pleased the Coalition has heeded the industry’s calls for a rollout of facial recognition to prevent problem gamblers entering gaming rooms, with Green stating AHA NSW will give further consideration to the Coalition policy.

In a brief statement, ClubsNSW said it is concerned about the significant costs and technical challenges associated with the Coalition’s proposal to implement a mandatory cashless gaming system.

“We’re particularly concerned about the implications for small, regional clubs and the impact this will have on jobs across the industry.

“ClubsNSW is committed to working with whomever wins the March election to combat problem gambling and keep criminals out of gaming venues.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) welcomed the Coalition’s plans to support the enhancement of F&B and live entertainment options in venues via the $50,000 grants.

“This is welcome news for night time industries and the public keen to see more live music across NSW. Whether you’re in Sydney’s Inner West or far western NSW, a pub gig has a special place in our music scene,” stated NTIA CEO Mick Gibb.

“Our Youth Advisory Council has made it clear to us that entertainment and performance are the makers of a great night out. We also know there’s a huge economic benefit to neighbouring restaurants, bars and businesses when live music becomes part of the community.

“This is a welcome initiative, and NTIA would encourage the Government to broaden this support to existing venues that don’t have gaming to introduce live music into their offering also.”

The NTIA also urged the Coalition to include live music operators and members of the performance industry in the Transition Taskforce to ensure that live music best practice is considered.

“Consulting with artists and industry experts will be a crucial step to help venues navigate the do’s and don’ts of live music. There are practical considerations to putting on live performance which first time venues will need help and guidance to work through,” stated Gibb.

“It’s important that this grant program isn’t a ‘set and forget’ initiative and that it ties in with broader arts and cultural policies to build the capacity and capability of artists, musicians and venue operators.

The Premier noted in the announcement that pub and club operators would not be happy with today’s announcement, but thanked them for their consultation and engagement.

“I accept that they will disagree with this decision today. I accept that. But I say to them today – I will work with you just like I did as Premier and as Treasurer during the pandemic. Every step of the way, to provide financial support to protect jobs, to protect pubs and to protect clubs.”

He also reiterated his esteem for pubs and clubs, and their place within their communities.

“I want pubs and clubs in New South Wales to continue to be the life blood of communities. I want them to grow. I want them to flourish. I want them to invest in live music and entertainment. I want them to have the best food and beverage offerings anywhere in the country. That’s what the reform will achieve. And I will stand with them on the journey to achieve this.”

More detail on the policy can be found here.

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