NSW gambling card supported by Bergin inquiry

by William Brown Last Updated
NSW gambling card supported by Bergin inquiry

A recent report into NSW’s potential newest casino could have uncovered a problem for the state’s near 100,000 poker machines and their operators.

The ABC reports that buried deep in the 800-plus page report into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino licence for its Barangaroo casino, was a finding by Commissioner Patricia Bergin that could cause grief for the machine operators.

In October 2020, the NSW minister responsible for gambling, Victor Dominello, said he was considering the introduction of a government-issued gambling card for all poker machine players.

The idea was that gamblers would pre-load their card with the amount of money they were prepared to lose.

Because the card would be linked to an individual’s ID, the minister argued, it would not just minimise harm to problem gamblers but reduce money laundering as well.

In her report, Commissioner Bergin made it clear she thought Mr Dominello’s proposal would help address one of the key issues she wanted dealt with – money laundering by organised criminals.

“The proposal has been the subject of some public debate and is not free from controversy,” she wrote.

“However, it appears that the very significant utility of the card to assist the problem gambler could not be in issue.

“It is also obvious that it would be a powerful mechanism to assist in combating money laundering.”

Since the publication of the report, Philip Crawford, the chair of the NSW regulator, has urged the government to back the gambling card.

“It’s a terrific way to shore up the issue of money laundering by organised crime,” he said.

Mr Crawford is concerned that if the focus is just on casinos laundering money, the practice will continue to flourish elsewhere.

“We don’t want it washing into the suburban pubs and clubs because it’s a big industry.

“You’ve seen the numbers and it’s massive, so it’s something we want to attack as a regulator.”

“We think it’s legitimate and we’ve got a minister who is committed to it. The stars are aligning. Let’s use the opportunity and the momentum for some really good change.”

Cashless gaming card gets support in unlikely places

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

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in September 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.

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