Regulatory body Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) is warning hotel operators about the importance of complying with gaming harm minimisation measures after the prosecution of a Sydney venue.
The licensee of Vbar on Liverpool Street in Sydney’s CBD was faced with enforcement action after the venue was found to be in breach of the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019, for placing an automatic teller machine (ATM) in an ATM room attached to its gaming room.
The ATM was located by inspectors from L&GNSW, and it was determined by the Magistrate that it was located in the same part of the hotel as gaming machines. In addition, a large sign reading “ATM” had been displayed across the door, within the gaming room.
The decision to prosecute followed an escalation in enforcement response by L&GNSW in 2023, and as a result, the licensee was ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs of $5,500.
Last year, the L&GNSW saw 16 penalty notices issued and 13 prosecutions commenced for ATM location breaches.
In the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019, it stipulates that a licensee must not permit a cash dispensing facility to be located in a part of a hotel or club premises in which approved gaming machines are located, with this incident deemed to be a clear breach of the regulation.
L&GNSW executive director regulatory operations Jane Lin spoke about the regulator’s interpretation of the breach, which has been supported by the Magistrate.
“ATMs must be located in a part of the venue completely separate to gaming rooms or any other part of a venue where gaming machines are located, even if the internal design or fit-out of the room acts to screen the ATM.
“This is important because having such ready access to cash withdrawals can make it easier for gamblers to lose track of what they are spending, while locating ATMs further away from gaming machines can encourage them to have a break in play.
“These requirements are clearly outlined in the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019 and have been further communicated to licensees in an effort to prevent and minimise gambling harm,” added Lin.
“L&GNSW has a zero-tolerance approach for venue operators who do not comply with fundamental gaming harm minimisation measures.”
The L&GNSW will focus on the placement of ATMs and gambling harm minimisation measures involving credit card withdrawals as part of a targeted compliance campaign throughout summer, with inspectors also targeting a broader set of issues such as visibility of internal gaming-related signage from outside, hotel layouts that compel patrons to pass through gaming rooms, and the presence of minors.
Having already conducted 437 inspections at high-risk venues across the state since 1 December 2023, inspectors will continue to monitor gaming venues. Failure to comply with regulations will result in enforcement in the form of large fines, potential disciplinary action, and the issue of statutory directions that require changes be made to venues, according to Lin.
“Most venues in NSW are complying with these measures but there are still too many that don’t take the necessary steps to protect their patrons from gambling harm,” Lin concluded.
“Any operators who attempt to circumvent the legislation will be met with a strong enforcement response.”