20 May 2023

Dalton says VIP sign crackdown is a 'very, very small step', reiterates call for cashless gaming

| Chris Roe
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Helen Dalton

Helen Dalton has welcomed the VIP signage ban but says it’s not enough. Photo: Supplied.

Helen Dalton is unimpressed with the state Labor government’s move to ban external gambling signage around poker machine venues, declaring it a “very small step forward”.

The Independent member for Murray has been an outspoken advocate for gaming reform in the wake of the NSW Crime Commission report that found criminals were using poker machines to launder money.

Ms Dalton says gambling addiction is ruining lives and has reiterated her call for cashless gaming cards to be introduced immediately.

“Poker machines are designed to addict. We need to focus on the machines, not just the signs that tell you about the machines,” Ms Dalton said.

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The Minns government has vowed to crack down on venues using coded names and images to get around laws that prohibit gaming-related signage.

Pubs and clubs will have until September to remove external signs promoting ‘VIP Lounges’ or ‘players’ rooms’ or depict images of dragons or coins or they will face heavy fines.

“Obviously the use of terms like VIP Lounge is just pokie advertising by stealth,” said Ms Dalton. “I will support the government’s ban on this kind of signage, but it is a very, very small step and can’t distract us from the real issue.”

The signage ban follows last week’s introduction of legislation to prohibit political donations from clubs and hotels.

Dr Joe McGirr, Greg Piper and Alex Greenwich

Dr Joe McGirr, Greg Piper and Alex Greenwich met with the Premier and Gaming Minister to discuss reforms. Photo: Dr Joe McGirr.

Ms Dalton and fellow cross-benchers Alex Greenwich, Greg Piper and Dr Joe McGirr have told the minority government that the cashless gaming card is a priority.

Dr McGirr said he felt Labor has “read the room”, adding that “I think they understand the community concerns and this is a good start”.

The introduction of a cashless gaming card was the key recommendation of the Crime Commission report and, while the Coalition had committed to rolling it out across 90,000 machines by 2028, Labor was more cautious, proposing a trial of 500 machines to gauge the potential impact on the hospitality industry.

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Dr McGirr explained that, along with Mr Greenwich and Mr Piper, he had met with liquor and gaming minister David Harris to advocate for a wider rollout.

“I think David’s personally committed to this, so I think this is evidence that they are going to move quickly on it and get the trials set up and I’m hopeful that they will expand the number of machines in the trial,” he said.

Ms Dalton is less patient. Personally targeted by Clubs NSW during the state election, she says her convincing win at the polls has given her the mandate to get it done.

“A cashless gaming card is long overdue in NSW,” she said. “That is the kind of reform that will actually help save lives and reduce addiction rates.

“The government mustn’t waste time fiddling at the edges. We know the addictive machines are the problem. It’s a dangerous product and people need to be protected from it. The cashless card will do that.”

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