2 May 2023

Grants for 'new income streams' as the Government pledges cashless gaming by 2028

| Chris Roe
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The NSW Coalition promises cashless gaming by 2028. Photo: File.

Wagga’s Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr has praised the Premier’s “firm leadership” on gambling reform and says the new measures “map out a way forward”.

While the state’s pubs and clubs have responded cautiously, noting many “unknowns” in the policy, Wagga RSL gaming manager Mick McGann said collaboration would be the key to making any changes work.

“Government and the industry have to work together to come up with the right outcome where it’s a win-win for both parties, the hospitality industry and the Government,” he said.

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Under Premier Dominic Perrottet’s plan, all pokies in NSW will become cashless by 2028 if the Coalition is re-elected in March.

According to the policy, an independent taskforce would oversee the transition to universal cashless gaming in NSW between 2024 and 2028.

Spending limits are likely to be self-imposed; however, families will be able to apply to add problem gamblers to a statewide exclusion register.

“I think he’s now mapped out a way forward and I think the proposal looks strong,” said Dr McGirr, acknowledging that some of the detail around limits was yet to be finalised.

“It’s a commitment to introduce the cashless gaming system that will go a long way to tackling problem gambling and this issue of dirty money through the machines.

“And he’s doing it in a way that allows, I think, a fair transition.”

Dr Joe McGirr

Wagga’s Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr has been a vocal supporter of pokies reform. Photo: NSW Parliament.

The reforms are both an attempt to reduce problem gambling and a direct response to a NSW Crime Commission report that found that poker machines were being used by criminals to launder money.

“For generations to come, we will not have money laundering and we will not have family breakdown due to problem gambling in this state,” the Premier declared while unveiling the $344 million policy.

Much of the money will go towards cushioning the blow for pubs and clubs that rely on the revenue from poker machines.

No-interest loans will be available for small and medium venues to help roll out the cashless technology, an “optional” buyback system will seek to acquire 2000 machines from venues and one-off $50,000 “diversification grants” will be available to invest in establishing new income streams.

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Both the Australian Hotels Association NSW and ClubsNSW have expressed their concerns over a lack of detail about how cashless gaming would be rolled out and the cost of implementing the new technology.

“We employ 150 people and, depending on the downturn in revenue, some of those will be affected, plus the contractors and suppliers and all the other things we do around town,” said Mr McGann.

“We’ve supported Willans Hill Regional School with things like a new bus, where the Government’s never helped them out.

“You’ve got the Relay for Life and all those sorts of things you have to look at, depending on what happens with the revenue.”

Dr McGirr acknowledged the potential impact on venues across the state but said that it needed to be weighed against the human cost of problem gambling.

“The issue is that 40 per cent or more of this money comes at the expense of people who have an addiction and for whom gambling is a problem,” he said.

“I think 2028 offers a fair time to transition, and a number of clubs have already built up large venues with a range of income streams and there’s no reason why that wouldn’t continue to be a source of revenue.

“I also think this might be a shot in the arm for the live-music sector that suffered through COVID. This could be a great opportunity, particularly in regional areas, to have a bit of a renaissance and help the rebuilding of the live-music industry.”

The Labor Opposition has not supported a universal rollout and instead proposed a 12-month cashless gaming trial on 500 machines in key locations if it wins government in March.

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