NSW Nationals Party Room Opposes Gambling Cards

The implementation of gambling cards in New South Wales faces some fierce opposition

Introducing prepaid gambling cards in New South Wales has hit a stumbling block after NSW Nationals party room unanimously opposed them.

Deputy Premier and Nationals leader, John Barilaro, made it clear he is not a fan of gambling cards.

“Our pubs and clubs are at the heart of our communities and have worn the brunt of the Covid restrictions and the economic shock wave. Now is the time to support this sector, not strangle it with expensive red tape.”

Barilaro’s comments come despite an NSW Independent Gaming and Liquor Authority (ILGA) report recommending prepaid gambling cards. Barilaro’s Nations party room voted unanimously to oppose the cards’ introduction.

Former Labor leader Michael Daley is another MP who expresses concern for prepaid gambling cards.

“We’re all concerned about problem gambling, however, the responses have to be considered, evidence-based and proportionate. What worries me about the proposal Victor Dominello floated in October at the height of Covid without cabinet approval, was that they were his independent thoughts without having consulted with the industry.”

Gambling cards returned to the forefront of discussion following the Bergin Inquiry report. Patricia Bergin called prepaid gambling cards “a powerful mechanic, to assist in combatting money-laundering.” Money-laundering featured highly in the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a Sydney gaming licence.

What Are Prepaid Gambling Cards?

The idea behind prepaid gambling cards is simple. Casino patrons using gaming machines and pokies use the cards instead of cash. Patrons “load up” the gambling cards with money at the casino’s cashier before spending their funds on their favourite games.

The principle protects both the end-user and the casino. Problem gamblers are easily identified because the casino’s cashier loads the cards up with the customer’s funds. The cashier knows exactly how much money the customer spends and how quickly.

Also, problem gamblers are less likely to visit the cashier to continually load their gambling cards.

Gambling cards protect casinos from money laundering too. Loading up the card requires the customer to show a valid ID. Furthermore, spend is monitored so unscrupulous people can’t feed pokies for a few hours, cashout, and launder money that way.

Gambling Reform Advocate Supports The Cards

Federal independent MP Andrew Wikie is a long-time gambling reform advocate. It is, therefore unsurprising Wilkie wants gambling cards in use throughout NSW and Australia.

“Gambling cards significantly reduce money-laundering and provide opportunities for reducing the prevalence of gambling addiction. That it’s NSW taking the lead on this reform is very significant because the state is home to about half of the country’s poker machines as well as the poker machine industry’s most strident advocates, in particular ClubsNSW.”

Wilkie is hopeful and confident the NSW government will progress with the reform.

“Once upon a time I would have given the reform little chance of success, but times have obviously changed to the point where there is genuinely a chance of success. The community now understands much more clearly the harm caused by poker machines. Moreover, revelations like the Bergin Crown inquiry have alerted people to the importance of gambling for money-laundering.

What Is Stopping The Industry Introducing Cards?

Huge, currently unknown costs are the main obstacle to implementing prepaid gambling cards. New South Wales houses more than 95,000 pokies across its clubs and pubs. Each pokie requires adapting to not take cash and have the card software installed. We cannot imagine this will be a small $10 fee per machine.

There are significant costs to venues that need the software to load up the cards, too. Staff need training and systems need implementing.

Then there is the issue of how to swap the cash-accepting pokies for those only allowing cards. The state’s pokies bring in $1 billion in tax revenues annually. They do this by being switched on and used more often than they are turned off.

Switching over to gambling cards is a monumental task and one that will not happen overnight. Will it happen at all? Not if the Nationals have their way.