Gambling harm reduction measures must be quid pro quo for more Star poker machines - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Gambling harm reduction measures must be quid pro quo for more Star poker machines

18 August, 2021

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The NSW Government must ensure any increase in poker machine numbers at The Star casino in Sydney is accompanied by vital gambling harm reduction measures, says Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello.

Another 1000 poker machines at The Star would be a huge windfall for the massive casino, and should come with some serious strings attached, Rev Costello said.

“Number one should be that the new poker machines to be introduced at The Star should only be accessed via a digital wallet linked to gambling harm reduction measures such as pre-committed spending and time limits to help people monitor and control their gambling losses,” Rev Costello said.

“It’s also imperative that these 1000 new poker machines come about through the purchasing of 1500 licences from other pubs and clubs, not with a current loophole that means they could be leased. We want to ensure this deal results in 500 less poker machines in NSW. That’s a drop in the ocean given how many machines there are in the state -- 89,000 is a staggering number.

“We also want Star to commit to introducing digital wallets throughout the casino as a priority. They agreed to do this after the Bergin Inquiry but no timeline was set. We don’t want to be waiting years for this to happen, it should be a priority now, especially in light of money laundering at casinos.

Rev Costello said he remained disturbed that Star thought it appropriate to seek an increase in poker machine numbers in the middle of the pandemic.

“Sydney is in a crisis right now unlike it has ever faced before, and yet the gambling industry is clearly still getting meetings and influencing the government towards deals in its favour. It says a lot about how captured by the gambling industry some parts of this NSW Government are. We’ve known this for a very long time, but this is further evidence of the industry’s influence,” Rev Costello said.

“Thankfully there are some Ministers in the NSW Government who are trying to reduce gambling harm in the state. That is of critical importance when you are talking about the state with the highest number of poker machines in the world, outside of Nevada and its Las Vegas.

“As Treasurer Dominic Perrottet recently noted, poker machines are ‘our nation’s blight’. NSW should never have allowed itself to be put in a position where it has become so reliant o gambling taxes, and thus on people being harmed significantly for those taxes to come through. It’s just wrong.

“I applaud (Gambling Minister) Victor Dominello for his demonstrated commitment to reducing gambling harm in NSW. Everyone in Cabinet should care about this, and so should the Opposition. 

The impacts of gambling harm are felt by people, families, communities and businesses around NSW. This is a public health issue with devastating social and economic consequences.”

Anna Bardsley lost 10 years of her life to gambling. She knows firsthand how little the gambling industry cares for the community or people experiencing gambling harm. She welcomed a new casino regulator for NSW, as recommended by the Bergin Inquiry, saying an independent body was imperative for effective oversight of a dangerous business.

“This is a predatory industry that views people as dollar signs and profits, not human beings who have families to feed and lives to lead. They know the people experiencing the worst gambling harm are their best customers. They want to exploit them, not help them,” Ms Bardsley said.

“Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. They must be held to account and must be made to make concessions to reduce gambling harm when they get an increase in poker machine numbers like this, otherwise they just stripmine our communities. I know too many people who have been left devastated by the impact of poker machines -- people must come first, ahead of profits.”

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

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