Liquor & Gaming NSW, the regulatory border that oversees the state’s liquor, gaming, wagering and registered clubs, says it is taking a closer look at signage outside NSW pubs and clubs to determine whether they are breaching local gaming laws.
The issue of venue signage has come to the fore ahead of this month’s state election amid promises by both major political parties to implement major gambling reforms, particularly in regard to the proliferation of poker machines in pubs and clubs. Among the key changes flagged by the current Liberal government should it retain power is a transition to mandatory cashless gaming for all of the state’s 87,000-plus poker machines, however both parties also want to ban all signs promoting gaming rooms located outside licensed venues.
Under current NSW gaming law, signs that use “a term or expression frequently associated with gambling” are already barred, however venues skirt this law by using signs that simply state “VIP Lounge” – a term commonly known to refer to a gaming area.
Speaking at the Regulating the Game conference in Sydney this week, Jane Lin – Executive Director, Regulatory Operations and Enforcement, Liquor & Gaming NSW – said a recent blitz by the regulator’s enforcement team found that 80% of NSW venues had “some sort of signage that might indicate the presence of gaming machines inside.”
While this did not necessarily mean that all 80% were non-compliant due to the wording of the legislation, she noted that Liquor & Gaming NSW was waving a “flag to say to the industry that we are starting to look more closely at this. We will take it on a case-by-case basis, like we always do, as to whether we think signage is compliant.”
Asked specifically about the term “VIP Lounge”, Lin said, “The wording of the legislation is such that we need to take a look at what can be done in terms of taking enforcement action. It may not be necessary [for Liquor & Gaming NSW to do so] because there are proposals from both major parties in NSW to change the legislation, so in that regard we just need to wait until after the election.
“But we are going to continue with a multi-faceted compliance and enforcement approach which means watching people, physically being present in pubs and clubs to understand what’s going on. We don’t just go on with a clipboard and tick off whether you have the right signage, it’s about observing the behaviours of the staff, it’s about understanding whether they seem to understand their obligations.”
Poker machine reform has been on the political agenda ever since the NSW Crime Commission released a report in October claiming that billions of dollars of dirty money was being funnelled through the state’s pubs and clubs each year.