As we reported last week, cashless pokies may soon be coming to Sydney and the rest of New South Wales. However, while the initial proposal may have caught the opposition off guard, now they’re lining up to express their skepticism.

How It Started

The NSW pokie industry dwarfs those of any other Australian state. It rakes in over $6 billion per year, and the number of poker machines stands at more than 90,000. In fact, when it comes to states, it’s second only to Nevada (home of Las Vegas) for pokies.

Victor Dominello, the man responsible for gambling under the coalition government of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, recently released draft legislation. The purpose? Reign in problem gambling and create a model that could be emulated by other states.

At the time, there was no mention of cashless pokies. Instead, the legislation seemed to favor facial recognition technology as a way to combat problem gambling.

Less than a week later, however, Dominello dropped the cashless pokie bombshell.

How Cashless Pokies Work

If the cashless option becomes a reality, here are the steps that will need to take place…

  • All pokies must switch to cashless technology. It’s unclear whether this would require modification or replacement.
  • In order to play a poker machine, residents of NSW need a card. In order to receive the card, they must register with the government. If they are on the national gambling self-exclusion list, they will not receive a card.
  • The card can be loaded with money at the owner’s choosing.
  • The NSW government would know who are playing pokies, where they’re playing, and how much they’re spending.

The Lone Voice of Support

Before we look at all those who’ve voiced their opposition, let’s first hear from a supporter for the cashless policy. Not surprisingly, it’s Tim Costello, the longtime advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

According to Mr. Costello, “It is immensely encouraging to have a minister responsible for gambling in NSW seeking significant reform to support people experiencing issues with gambling, and also speaking about the harms poker machines do in what is effectively the non-casino pokies capital of the world.”

An Army of Opposition

Now let’s hear from some of the opposition. This number seems to grow every day, and their arguments seem to become more forceful as the days go by.

NSW politician Tania Mihailuk

Tania Mihailuk, the Labor Party member representing Bankstown, took to Twitter to express her disapproval. She wrote, “This isn’t about stopping gambling…nothing new to control online gambling????…this is about killing our local Clubs and more unnecessary red tape.”

Speaking of politicians, Michael Daley, the Labor Party representative of Maroubra, also took a dim view of Dominello’s idea. While admitting that both sides want to do something about problem gambling, he worries about the “civil liberties aspect where the government is recording biometrics or tracking someone’s activities through a card.”

In case you’re wondering, it’s not just the Labor Party that’s speaking up. The NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has also voiced their concern. According to party leader Robert Borsak, “The economic impact on NRL and AFL sporting clubs, on community RSLs, bowling clubs, country pubs and their community support activities will be devastating.”

Josh Landis, the head of Clubs NSW, displayed skepticism about the proposal. He said, “Gaming revenue has fallen 14% year-on-year as a result of the 10-week industry shutdown, while food and beverage takings are down 60% to 70%. I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements.”

Additional Reading

To read more articles about gambling, both in Australia and abroad, please see the following: