Cashless gambling trial could be a winner, but must be designed well and with caution - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Cashless gambling trial could be a winner, but must be designed well and with caution

May 24, 2021

Download PDF version here

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is pleased NSW is going ahead with a cashless gambling trial, hoping it will lead to a long-term reduction in gambling harm across the state, and possible modelling to be adopted around Australia -- so long as the system is well-designed.

Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said the Newcastle trial was a key first step towards all but eliminating money laundering via poker machines, and to helping prevent and reduce gambling harm in our communities, but the Alliance was mindful of heavy industry involvement in the trial.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to undo so many bad decisions and designs of the past that have led to so many horrible impacts in our communities,” Rev Costello said. “Gambling harm is a significant public health issue that is being exacerbated by having thousands of poker machines, machines of addiction, available almost everywhere in NSW. They’re inescapable.

“When you consider the myriad public health intersections with gambling harm you realise how critical it is to address this issue. Public health must take priority over profit. While we appreciate the industry must be involved in this process for it to work, they cannot be dictating terms or design.

“Industry freewheeling has led us to this absurd situation where successive governments from both major sides of politics have allowed poker machines to become effective washing machines for money laundering. This must be stopped -- too much criminality has been effectively aided and abetted in our clubs and pubs by a complete lack of checks and balances on poker machines.

“I applaud Minister Victor Dominello and the NSW Government for finally taking a stand against this criminality and harm. It’s an important, principled stand that should be supported, not argued against.”

Rev Costello said the Alliance would be closely monitoring this first trial to ensure there were no harmful consequences for the people of NSW, unintentional or otherwise, and that the industry did not manipulate the trial in any way to try and set it up to fail. 

“Done right, a move to cashless gambling will all but eliminate money laundering via poker machines and casinos, and will also help reduce gambling harm. Done wrong, you may as well set up direct debits to people’s bank accounts and sign over their mortgages. It could be that dangerous,” he said.

“Presently, most of the elements of the trial look right, but we will ensure they stay on track. We will not support a system that could increase gambling harm in any way. That’s not negotiable.”  

Rev Costello said elements key for a cashless system to not increase gambling harm included:

  1. The system must be linked to verified ID, and to self-exclusion registers 
  2. Low load limits must be in place to ensure people regularly take breaks from gambling, which is an evidence-based circuit breaker for harm. The proposed $1000 is too high
  3. Credit cards must not be able to be used for gambling
  4. Long-term, the system should be interoperable with any other cashless systems to be implemented in other states.

Former gambler and now gambling reform advocate, Anna Bardsley, said that she would like to see cashless gambling safely introduced around Australia.

“When people have low load limits on a card that is needed to gamble, we know that helps to reduce gambling harm. Having to take a break and step away from a machine, which is designed to addict you, to add more money to a card is a powerful circuit breaker. It helps people to take stock of how much they are losing while gambling,” Ms Bardsley said.

“I’m pleased people will be able to set time limits too. I am cautiously hopeful this will go well, and could have a positive impact on gambling harm. Strong, evidence-based action is needed, and now.”



Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]

See here for a gambling language guide for journalists.