The State Government will make every poker machine cashless by the end of 2028, Premier Dominic Perrottet has confirmed today.
The landmark changes will see one of the biggest gambling reforms ever undertaken in Australia.
The package will provide support for pubs and clubs to transition to cashless gaming, ensure continued support for community organisations, funding for diversification into new business areas, as well as dedicated extra support to ensure the ongoing viability of regional and small venues.
Cashless gaming will include a number of features to curb problem gambling, including mandatory self-imposed limits and cooling-off periods, breaks in play, prohibiting the transfer of funds from credit-cards and prohibiting automatic top-ups.
This will be complemented by other system-wide changes such as self-exclusions and third-party exclusions, prohibiting the use of VIP Lounge signage and prohibiting political donations from both pubs and clubs.
An independent Transition Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, will be established and include representatives from key government agencies, industry representatives and harm minimisation experts.
The Taskforce will operate from April 2023 throughout the duration of the transition, and will provide a roadmap to deliver state-wide cashless gaming by 2028, with the full rollout commencing in early 2024.
“Today we make a once in a lifetime change to create a better NSW,” Perrottet said today.
“We address the number one recommendation from the Crime Commission and we will end money laundering in pubs and clubs, while protecting jobs and supporting communities.
“We will also ensure people using poker machines receive more support, if they want it, to deal with problem gambling.
“Pubs and clubs are the lifeblood of so many communities across NSW and I want them to thrive, continue to grow and be a place for fun and enjoyment for everyone.
“My Government will walk with our pubs and clubs every step of the way on this transition.”
However, Perrottet’s move will create plenty of division ahead of the election next month.
The Australian Hotels Association said it was “considering the impact” of the announcement.
“The NSW hotel industry is disappointed the Coalition has announced it will set a commencement date of 31 December 2028 without having any understanding of how cashless gaming will be rolled out,” Director of Liquor and Policing John Green said.
“This includes the actual costs involved, the impact on industry, employment, the NSW Budget and whether it will actually help problem gamblers.
“We’re particularly concerned this policy won’t help problem gamblers but will instead drive away the majority of casual players who won’t sign up for a government-mandated gaming account linked directly to their own bank accounts.
“There are currently four trials of various forms of cashless gambling either underway or about to start across NSW. It is disappointing the Coalition has set a fixed commencement date before considering any of the information learnt from these trials.”
Labor is planning an expanded trial of cashless gaming but has not committed to a full implementation.
• Support all 8 recommendations of the NSW Crime Commissioner to eliminate money laundering at pubs and clubs;
• Introduce mandatory cashless gaming across all venues by 31 December 2028, through legislation;
• Protect the economic viability of venues across NSW, particularly in regional areas and border communities;
• Provide support for community organisations through grants;
• Legislate the strictest privacy protections for player data, with no government or industry access to personalised player data other than for law enforcement purposes (eg. AUSTRAC), with strict penalties for misuse;
• Require that all new machines purchased once the full rollout commences be cashless;
• Introduce an optional buy-back scheme targeted to acquire 2,000 machines from venues over 5 years;
• Ban political donations from both pubs and clubs.
• Require players to set their own limits that cannot be increased for 7 days;
• Mandate breaks in play and the ability for players to self-exclude;
• Enable third party exclusion by a family member;
• Implement a state-wide self-exclusion register;
• Ban credit and automatic top-ups, with gaming funds only allowed to flow from a bank account;
• Prohibit the use of VIP lounge signage.
Other specific money laundering measures
• Enable player identity verification linked to a single bank account;
• Require any new cash machine purchased after July 2023 have a load up (cash feed in) limit of $500.
Support for communities, organisations, pubs and clubs
• Interest-free loans will be available to support the entire cost of transition for small and medium sized pubs and clubs.
• A community grant program for small and medium sized pubs and clubs will be available to cover the full cost of all non-tax deductible donations these organisations make to their communities, once they have confirmed an order for cashless technology and provided evidence of their transition plan to cashless gaming.
• This community grant program would support grass roots organisations such as junior sporting teams, that the clubs or pubs may sponsor.
• This grant will be paid every year until 2028 once a venue has confirmed its order of cashless technology and committed to a full transition plan, which will act as an incentive for earlier take-up.
• A one-off diversification grant of up to $50,000 be paid to small and medium sized pubs and clubs to support their pursuit of new revenue streams
• This diversification grant could support things such as live music, refurbishing a bowling green, installing an outdoor oven, installing a stage to encourage live music and entertainment.
• The diversification grant will be paid once a venue has confirmed its order and transition plan for cashless technologies, or it joins the buyback scheme.
• A regional fund of $40 million will support regional pubs and clubs transition to cashless technology, recognising the vital role they play in the bush.
• A small venue fund of $20 million will support small venues to transition to cashless gaming, given small venues have less resources than larger ones.
How the transition will work
• A Transition Taskforce will be established in April 2023 including NSW Police, Liquor and Gaming NSW, NSW Treasury, the Department of Customer Service, the NSW. Privacy Commissioner, industry representatives and harm minimisation experts.
• The Taskforce will be chaired by the Secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
• The Taskforce will be supported by expert panels advising on:
o System settings, including for gaming harm minimisation and anti-money laundering technology and system rollout;
o Industry sustainability and jobs;
o Regional transition management.
• The Taskforce will:
o Protect the economic viability of venues across NSW, particularly in regional areas and border communities;
o Expand the present technology testing arrangements from 500 to 2,000 machines in 2023;
o By the end of 2023, set a Roadmap for delivery of cashless gaming across the entire State by 31 December 2028;
o Monitor delivery against the Roadmap, and publish a status update every 6 months;
o Make recommendations to address any barriers to the completion of the transition;
o Advise on settings and eligibility criteria for the various industry loans and grant programs available to support the transition, and oversee their rollout.
• The Taskforce will constantly monitor the rollout, including with a focus on industry viability and jobs and make recommendations where required
• The Taskforce will have scope to amend the deadline if:
o It has received independent expert advice that cashless gaming technology is not available in the quantities required in the timeframe required; or
o With respect to a regional pub or club, the Taskforce advises that meeting the deadline for the transition to cashless gaming would put that pub’s or club’s viability at risk
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.