Local clubs highlight pros and cons of cashless poker machine proposal

Last week, the state government announced draft legislation requiring people to register for a government-issued gambling card to access poker machines.

The draft legislation is linked to the state’s self-exclusion register, and signals facial recognition technology and third-party exclusion [family intervention] as potential means to identify problem gamblers.

But Bathurst RSL Club general manager Peter Sargent feels the new proposal has some positives but is, in some cases, a step too far.

“The third-party exclusion idea is sensible, and we’re in absolute support of it, but facial recognition and cashless machines poses privacy risks and unreasonable expense and regulatory burdens for businesses,” Mr Sargent said.

“Our main concern is that it must be a scheme we can practically and sensibly implement without risking our business and we’re eager to see more details, as the government has a propensity to create difficult regulations for clubs to comply with.”

Mr Sargent also noted the rise in online gambling and how tighter gaming regulation could force more people out of local venues to bet online.

“The strong harm minimisation measures written into our club’s regulations are moot for people placing bets on their phones using credit cards,” he said.

“It’s frustrating that the government continues to crack down on poker machines and yet ignores online gambling, which has zero community benefit.”

An April 2020 article in The Sydney Morning Herald reported a 67 per cent increase in online gambling at the onset of COVID-19 based on statistics from a database tracking the consumption patterns of hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Panthers Bathurst general manager John Fearnley shares Mr Sargent’s view that the draft legislation has some merit, but said more information is needed to forge a clearer understanding.

“It will depend on whether its manageable for all NSW clubs, some of the bigger clubs in Sydney shouldn’t have as many issues, but smaller clubs out west might find it tough,” Mr Fearnley said.

“The last seven months have been really tough for the club industry, and the government has to weigh up whether certain venues will be able to afford such upgrades.

“We are moving towards a cashless society, sure, but I’m not sure people would have faith in facial recognition technology for privacy reasons, not mention how the laws would differ from state to state.”

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