Self-exclusion fines draw criticism from NSW clubs and pubs

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
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A change to New South Wales gambling laws, including fines for venues who fail to stop self-excluded gamblers have drawn the ire of the state’s pubs and clubs.

The government is seeking community consultation on a raft of new measures, including $27,500 fines for clubs failing to stop self-excluded gamblers, in a bid to crack down on problem gambling, the AFR reports.

Gambling reform advocates have quashed industry concerns of burdensome red tape and profit losses, as government data shows revenue at the clubs is above pre-pandemic levels.

ClubsNSW chief executive John Landis said the changes go too far, too soon for an industry finding its feet after the pandemic.

“I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements,” he said.

Mr Landis said gaming revenue had dropped 14 per cent during the lockdown period while clubs were seeing up to 70 per cent losses in food and beverage sales.

The NSW government said there had been a 12 per cent, or $200 million, rise in gaming machine revenue in the three months to August, year-on-year.

Facial recognition key to picking up problem gamblers

Under the proposed changes, facial recognition technology could be installed at clubs across NSW to pick up self-excluded gamblers.

Problem gamblers would have to forfeit any winnings they made at self-excluded venues and family members could nominate relatives for bans.

Venues would be required to have a trained gambling contact officer on at all times who could recognise signs of problem gambling.

ClubsNSW said on average, 100 people were caught each month trying to dodge self-imposed bans, with some wearing wigs or masks to get in.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the changes were meant to help crack down on problem gambling.

“I don’t see it as red tape. I see it as an appropriate regulatory setting given what is in front of us,” Mr Dominello said.

With JobKeeper payments coming to an end next year, Mr Dominello said people using superannuation or welfare on gambling and a rise in mental health problems mean the measures are necessary. 

“You bring all of these ingredients together and it’s a very nasty cocktail indeed. We’ve got to put regulatory settings in place now,” Mr Dominello said.

“Everybody is on a unity ticket when it comes to the aspiration that we must reduce problem gambling. No one would disagree. The question is how we do it.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokeswoman Kate de Costa said the proposed legislation was a good first step.

“There’s a lot of harm to be undone in NSW,” Dr da Costa said.

She said gaming revenue was back to at least pre-pandemic levels, despite fewer machines operating.

The changes could actually require the struggling hospitality sector to hire more staff, helping the economy.

The alliance wants an independent adjudicator to oversee bans put in place by family members and venues that host self-excluded gamblers should repay any losses to the user.

A central database combining the multiple self-exclusion databases across the state and a uniform way for venues to cross check the database was needed, Dr da Costa said.

“What is the incentive, apart from doing the right thing, for a club to exclude people? They’re their best customers,” she said.

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