Wesley Mission welcomes Coalition policy on gambling reform, but is disappointed at extended timeline for a mandatory cashless gaming card

Wesley Mission is pleased that the Liberal/National Coalition remains committed to the introduction of a mandatory cashless gambling card, and now has now released details and time-lined plans to do so.

Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate Rev Stu Cameron said that real and substantive reform of the poker machine industry is now firmly on the election agenda. “Our state is on the cusp of implementing one of the most significant social reforms in many years, one that will directly benefit the lives of hundreds of thousands of people through measures that are proven to reduce the scourge of gambling harm.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with the Premier on the issue of gambling reform and the importance of introducing a mandatory cashless gaming card. His commitment to this reform and to reducing the impact of gambling harm in NSW is genuine and deeply appreciated.

“We’ve been waiting for the detail on the Coalition’s policy, and now we have it. There have obviously been some compromises made around the timeline for delivery, with a proposed legislated date of December 2028, and that is disappointing. We still believe that, based on both evidence and expert advice, the full implementation of mandatory cashless gaming is possible in the next parliamentary term. The policy is not perfect, but the firm and detailed commitment to a mandatory cashless card is both critical and very welcome.

“As things stand right now, the Liberal/National coalition head to the election as the only parties capable of forming a government after March 25 who have a committed response to the Crime Commission’s recommendation to introduce mandatory cashless gaming.

“Chris Minns said last week that he was ‘open to amending Labor’s pokies policy’. The ball is now firmly in his court to not only adopt a multi-partisan commitment to introducing a mandatory cashless gaming card, but to go one further and commit to introducing it within the four years of the next parliamentary term.

“Importantly there is already strong support for a mandatory cashless gambling card from the Greens, key Independents and from the ‘teal’ candidates.”

Many of the key design elements for a mandatory cashless gambling card recommended by Wesley Mission in a discussion paper released last month appear in the Coalition’s policy.

These include ensuring the card is:

  • Universal, with no cash payment options;
  • Identity linked
  • Incapable of using funds sources from credit;
  • Includes harm minimisation measures such as breaks in play
  • Linked to exclusion registers

However, a shortcoming in the Coalition’s policy is the ability for users to set their own loss limits, rather than including a mandatory loss limit that can then be adjusted.

This is a highly successful design feature in the successful Norwegian cashless gambling system and has been included in the proposed Tasmanian scheme.

The Coalition policy does not also include a load up limit on the card. Wesley Mission recommended a card load-up limit of $1000.

Additional aspects of the LNP policy announced today that Wesley Mission welcome include a commitment to introducing an independent, state-wide self-exclusion register.

“The current system of self-exclusion in NSW is frankly a tragic joke,” said Rev Cameron.

“People can currently only self-exclude from a maximum of 35 gambling venues, and it’s up to the pubs and cubs to administer. How’s that supposed to work in a local government area like Sydney’s Inner West where there are 80 gambling venues, and when the gambling industry state-wide has proven themselves utterly incapable and unwilling to effectively administer the scheme.

“A real, independent state-wide self-exclusion scheme, ultimately linked to the new cashless gaming card will make a huge difference in reducing gambling harm, and the Coalition’s commitment to this reform is most welcome.

“However, it is vital that such a system is implemented as soon as possible and not linked to the 31 December 2028 timeline.”

Wesley Mission also welcomes the establishment of a Transition Taskforce to oversee the introduction of cashless gaming.

“A Transition Taskforce, free from undue and disproportionate pressure from industry will be essential. We would like to see that taskforce assisted by an expert panel to advise on the effectiveness of harm minimisation measures as they are rolled out. Input from people with lived experience of gambling harm will also be crucial.”

Rev Cameron says the Taskforce should also be empowered to established key, phased targets to be met within the transition period.

“This could include prioritising the removal or replacement of the thousands of poker machines in NSW that still have load-up limits of $7500 to $10,000 per machine, along with the immediate removal of multi-terminal gaming machines where users can bet on multiple machines at once.”

On November 9 last year, Wesley Mission released its five-point “Put Pokies in Their Place” election platform.

Along with advocating for a mandatory cashless gambling card, and an independent, state-wide self-exclusion register, the platform called for three other reforms and harm minimisation measures:

  • Calling for all poker machines in pubs and clubs to be turned off between midnight and 10am;
  • Calling for Councils to have a statutory right to be able to make submissions on every poker machine application in their community; and
  • Calling for all NSW poker machine data to be transparently published by venue at least every six months.

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.

Media contact:
Anne Holt on 0418 628 342 or anne.holt@wesleymission.org.au

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