With the Minns Government’s promised trial of cashless gaming machines now delayed, Member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr has continued to push for reform during a debate in parliament on Thursday (22 June).
Dr McGirr outlined the impact on problem gamblers from poker machines that he said were “scientifically proven to manipulate the senses”.
“We have a business model that preys on the vulnerable. Money is hoovered out of the pockets of New South Wales residents by an electronic vacuum and this has significant and terrible impact on problem addicts right across the state.”
Figures released by Liquor & Gaming NSW in April showed the state’s residents had lost $4.3 billion on the pokies over six months in 2022.
Between 1 June and 30 November of 2022, residents in Wagga Wagga and the Snowy Valleys lost $13,375,754.14 across 417 machines at 12 clubs.
In the same period, across 18 hotels in Junee, Temora, Wagga Wagga, Lockhart and Narrandera, Riverina residents gambled away $20,177,487.36 on 376 machines.
As the need for cashless gaming measures became a leading issue ahead of the NSW state election, Chris Minns committed to a trial on 500 machines in clubs and pubs that would begin at the start of the new financial year.
But a week out from the deadline, the independent supervisory panel is yet to be installed and the Government continues to negotiate with stakeholders over who it should include.
Gaming and Racing Minister David Harris said this week that they remained committed to reducing gambling harm and money laundering and hoped to appoint the panel by next Friday before beginning work on the trial in July.
The Government has put forward a range of additional reforms and last month introduced a bill to prevent parties from accepting donations from clubs with gaming machines and will crack down on coded advertising for things like “VIP lounges”.
Dr McGirr welcomed the reforms and acknowledged the work of the former premier Dominic Perrottet in putting the issue on the agenda.
“I do believe that the current Premier and the Government now understand the importance of this issue. They have read the room on the need for reform,” he said.
“I support and encourage an expansion of the cashless gaming trial to include more poker machines at more venues.”
He urged the Government to avoid an “unnecessary delay” of the trial.
“The community expects progress on this issue and not at a glacial pace,” he said.
“However, I do accept that we need to do this right and if that does take some extra time, so be it so long as the commitment and actions remain genuine.”
The initial trial on 500 of the state’s more that 86,000 machines will be funded from the $100 million fines paid by the Star Casino and Dr McGirr said that it was important to work with clubs to ensure a “fair transition” in the regions.
“I’ve met with representatives of the large clubs in Wagga Wagga with poker machines … and I believe they are aware of the issues and understand the need to change,” he said.
“Venues must be supported so that their doors stay open and jobs aren’t lost. Venues are often the centre of community life and we do need to support that transition at this point.”