Statement from Rev Stu Cameron, Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate –
“Everybody’s talking about genuine gambling reform for the first time in a New South Wales election. NSW Labor has heard the community’s message that it is not sufficient to kick the can down the road, and people want genuine reform. With this announcement, NSW Labor is off to a good start, but frankly, there’s a long way to go.
In November, Wesley Mission and its partners launched the ‘Put Pokies in Their Place’ policy platform. Our five recommended reforms are based on evidence and research into gambling harm minimisation. Since then, we’ve seen NSW Greens’ policy and now NSW Labor’s approach. However, we are still waiting on more clarity from the Coalition and call on the Premier to announce further detail about what’s proposed.
Wesley Mission welcomes genuine, good-faith initiatives on gambling reform. Regarding the NSW Labor’s announcement today –
Expanded Mandatory Cashless Gaming Trial
There is a lot of detail that we would expect to see in pre-implementation testing, which is good. The key is the independence of the panel; it cannot be dominated by industry or industry-associated academics and must include people with lived experience and venue staff representatives.
There is nothing stopping NSW Labor from committing to a mandatory cashless card and then informing that decision with pre-launch testing.
Banning political donations from Clubs
It is about time that the final loophole allowing political donations from the gambling industry was closed. This is an important step.
Labor will introduce poker machine cash input limits
A cash upload limit of $500 will help to stop money laundering and will help people restrict their spending, but this is an interim fix only until a mandatory card comes in. This is a positive announcement from NSW Labor that could make a difference in the long run. However, this will only apply to new machines, and there is no commitment to mandate the changeover of older machines. This is a software update only. The manufacturers make software changes like this all the time, and this fix could apply to all machines at a minimal cost.
Perspective is important – poker machines in NSW pubs this year will earn on average around $150,000 each. This is an industry that can’t cry poor.
Labor will ban all external gaming-related signage
It’s great to see NSW Labor committed to making the gambling industry obey the law. These sorts of signs are unnecessary. They are a visual blight on our towns and suburbs and a trigger and a danger to people experiencing gambling harm.
Reduce the number of poker machines in New South Wales
At least they are talking about reducing numbers, but it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. It needs to be a reduction specifically in areas where there is the greatest levels of gambling harm. We know that the industry is moving poker machines into vulnerable areas like Canterbury-Bankstown, Blacktown and Cumberland council areas, and there should be an immediate ban like Fairfield’s on additional machines in already severely impacted areas.
Labor will invest in harm minimisation programs through a $100 million fund
We welcome the use of the $100 million Star fine windfall to be directed to facilitating pre-launch testing, machine buy-backs, harm minimisation measures and implementing recommendations from an independent panel.
We called for this last year when the fine was announced, and the key will be who controls the research and funds – it must be truly independent (like the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’ FARE’).
Labor will introduce Responsible Gaming Officers (RGO) in venues
We support this measure, having called for RGOs in our joint statement with the UWU and NCOSS late last year.
Facial Recognition Technology
We fundamentally oppose the introduction and reliance on FRT as a harm minimisation tool.
The introduction of a mandatory universal cashless card will provide all the technology necessary to implement a highly effective state-wide self-exclusion system, that will also have the benefit of preventing money laundering and significantly reducing gambling harm.
Wesley Mission provides practical care and support for more than 130,000 people annually in NSW and across Australia, including help for people experiencing homelessness, local community action groups preventing suicide, and gambling and financial counselling among more than 120 programs. www.wesleymission.org.au
Rev Stu Cameron is available for interview.