Cashless gaming card gets support in unlikely places

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Geelong punters lose millions as pokies reopen

An unlikely partnership has been forged in New South Wales to support a gambling card for poker machines.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that One Nation and the NSW Greens support the proposal by the government, as it braces for a stoush with clubs and pubs over the plan.

The government is seeking to move to cashless poker machines and require players to register for a government-issued gambling card in the most sweeping gaming reforms in the state’s history.

One Nation leader Mark Latham, who has previously revealed his father Don’s gambling problem, has backed the proposal, warning problem gambling was a serious health issue crippling families.

Mr Latham said he had been pushing for 20 years for cashless smart card technology to overcome “this dreadful, destructive problem in our society.”

But he said the reforms should not be rushed and urged the government to delay implementation until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted for clubs and pubs.

“We don’t want this to hurt jobs because that would create another social problem,” he said.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello has released draft harm minimisation legislation for consultation, which suggested facial recognition technology be used to identify problem gamblers.

But the clubs and pubs have slammed the proposed changes and the use of such technology, and Mr Latham said he would not support facial recognition.

Under additional changes, gamblers will be forced to register and pre-load money to a card, which would operate in a similar way to the state’s cards for public transport.

The card would be linked to the state’s exclusion register to block out thousands of self-excluded gamblers.

It would be designed and overseen by the Privacy Commissioner.

Greens to mull gaming card in party room 

Greens gaming spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann said the reforms needed to be debated in her party room this week, but there was support for the gaming card and a draft harm minimisation bill.

“This could be a game-changer and I just hope we get bipartisan support,” Ms Faehrmann said.

Mr Dominello said he hoped there would be “collective leadership” from the industry to get a “much better landing for those who are suffering.”

“Gambling addiction impacts people across the political spectrum,” he said.

“This is not about politics, it’s about helping those thousands of desperate families who have been brave enough to ask for help.”

Independent upper house MP Justin Field, who has been a long-time anti-gambling campaigner, said a move to a cashless poker machine and the use of smart cards would have a huge impact.

Mr Field said a gambling card would also “completely eliminate” money laundering through poker machines in clubs and pubs.

Earlier this year, Federal MP Andrew Wilkie said as many as 95 per cent of clubs in NSW were operating illegally by not complying with anti-money laundering laws.

ClubsNSW disputed Mr Wilkie’s claims.

Labor has not indicated whether it would support the reforms.

A Labor spokesman said it was waiting on a formal briefing from Mr Dominello before it would consider its position.

The NSW Australian Hotels Association said it would not comment on the proposals at this stage and Clubs NSW said the gambling card had not been mentioned in the draft legislation and “appears to have caught everyone by surprise.”

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