The NSW state government is considering introducing sweeping poker machine reforms that would include a requirement for players to register for a government issued cashless card.
The move to cashless gaming, seen as a harm minimization measure, was not included in draft legislation released by senior cabinet minister Victor Dominello last week which instead focused on facial recognition technology as a means of identifying problem gamblers. However, Dominello has reportedly secured support from both his own party and cross-benchers.
Under the proposal, anyone using a poker machine in NSW would be required to register a card with the state government on which money would be pre-loaded. The card would be linked to the state exclusion register to instantly identify self-excluded players.
The move, coming in response to a 12% increase in poker machine expenditure during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been welcomed by anti-gambling campaigners but slammed by pubs and clubs.
“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%,” Clubs NSW chief Josh Landis told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements.”
Tim Costello, head of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, offered his support for introducing a cashless card, describing NSW as “effectively the non-casino pokies capital of the world.” He did, however, express concern that using a pre-loaded card may result in players “losing the sense of losing ‘real’ money if everything was digital … but this could be overcome with the right design and functionality.”
NSW has around 95,000 poker machines in operation state-wide.