NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has recently been under heavy fire over pokies. Some claimed the Premier did not have a coherent plan to combat money laundering and problem gambling in the region. On Sunday, the Premier’s pokies reform plan was finally unveiled, and it is one of the most aggressive programs in history.
Under the program, NSW will spend over $340 million to make the region cashless. All pokies in NSW will become cashless by December 31, 2028, with approximately 2,000 of those to be converted in April this year. Players will have a cash limit and be subject to pre-commitment limits. Furthermore, some pubs and clubs will be eligible for financial assistance in making the transition.
Pokies to Go Cashless in the Next Five Years
The Premier finally unveiled his pokies reform program on Sunday to the delight of many in law enforcement. The program calls for the region to go cashless in the next five years. By December 31, 2028, all pokies in NSW will be cashless under the program.
The conversion to cashless pokies will begin in April. Then, approximately 2,000 machines will convert to cashless gambling. Over the next five years, all pokies in the region will be must be cashless.
Players who play on cashless machines will be subject to pre-commitment levels and must play from a single bank account. Starting in July, any new poker machines that accept cash will have a $500 maximum feed-in limit per day.
Also, pubs and clubs will be banned from displaying VIP Lounge signs. One of the biggest changes will be a statewide self-exclusion list that players and their families can join. This will be a significant upgrade to the current system, which is narrow in scope.
Perrottet spoke on the reforms as a “once-in-a-lifetime” change. He also says that it will fix problems of money laundering and problem gambling in the region.
Pubs and Clubs Eligible For Loans and Grants For Upgrades
Many have spoken out against Perrottet’s plans to reform pokies, including ClubsNSW. The claim is that transitioning to cashless gambling will cause an unnecessary burden to clubs and pubs. They also claim that jobs will be lost.
Under the cashless pokies proposal, select clubs and pubs will be eligible for financial assistance in transitioning to cashless gambling. Small and medium-sized pubs and clubs can apply for no-interest loans and one-time grants of $50,000 to be used for alternative revenue streams. These include food, live music, and bowling.
There will be approximately $20 million available to small venues to transition to cashless gaming and $40 million for regional clubs and pubs. Larger operators cannot apply for loans, but they can participate in a government-funded program that will buy back approximately 2,000 poker machines.
Despite claims that the new plan will cost jobs, the Premier believes otherwise. He states that the program “will save lives. It will protect jobs and ensure that our communities across NSW are stronger now and into the future.”
Issue May Continue to Drag into the March Elections
Perrottet’s package passed the cabinet on Sunday, but it will likely still be an issue going into the March elections. Labor is largely backing Perrottet’s measure but still has concerns about the plan. They say it lacks a daily cap on spending. Also, they believe that trials are still necessary.
Party leader Chris Minns says voters will have the opportunity to choose between plans from both sides come March. He states, “(Our plan) is responsible, I do believe it’s comprehensive, it will be evidence-based and that’s what we’re taking to the people in NSW.”
While the plan is a monumental step in the right direction, legislation is still necessary. Time will tell whether the Premier ultimately gets all that he desires out of the package.