The ClubsNSW board has fired Josh Landis after commentary he made linking NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s religious beliefs to gaming reform.
By Grant Jones, editor of Club ManagementWhen ClubsNSW boss Josh Landis commented that the NSW Premier to Dominic Perrottet’s position on gambling reform in NSW was a result of his “Catholic gut” it took just a few hours after the comments appeared for the clubs industry boss to issue an apology. That came at 12.18pm. Just a few hours later, at 3.45pm, it was the Board of ClubsNSW issuing another statement.
“After careful consideration, the Board has made the decision to end Mr Landis’ employment with ClubsNSW with immediate effect,” the statement said.Landis had been quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying Perrottet did not understand the complexities of gambling reform when it came to poker machines in clubs and that his proposed changes came from “his conservative Catholic gut rather than based on evidence”.
“I wish to unreservedly apologise for my comments published in The Sydney Morning Herald today,” Landis said in a statement. “The comments were made during a phone call with a journalist late yesterday afternoon, who asked why I believe the Premier is so insistent on introducing a mandatory cashless system and other gaming reforms.”
Landis has been the face of clubs in the current gambling reform debate and has been at ClubsNSW for 15 years.
“The Board acknowledges Josh Landis’ exemplary service to the industry over more than 15 years through some very difficult times. We genuinely wish him all the best on his future endeavours.”
In Landis’ apologetic statement, he said he “misspoke and should not have referred to the Premier’s faith”.
“This was not a premeditated comment or an intentional attack on the Premier personally, rather it was a poor attempt to explain that there is a lack of evidence for the policy and the Premier is a moral person who intrinsically wants to help those who are causing themselves harm,” the Landis statement said.
“I contacted the Premier earlier today to apologise personally. I would like to take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise publicly for any offence caused.”
By then it was too late. Independent MPs, the anti-gaming lobby, senior cabinet ministers and religious groups all criticised Landis for suggesting the Premier’s Catholic faith was behind his stance on gambling reform.
“There is no place for comments like that in modern Australia,” Perrottet was quoted as saying and described the comments as offensive to people of faith across the state. The comments also proved offensive to the ClubsNSW board, headed by former Rugby League chairman and Canterbury League Club boss George Peponis.
The Board said it will consider its next steps and has no further comment at this point in time.
The dismissal comes after a tumultuous few months for the ClubsNSW CEO who has been battling everyone from the Alliance for Gambling Reform to the Labor Opposition and minor parties and the move by the Perrottet Government to introduce cashless gaming cards into clubs.