The New South Wales government has been accused of bowing to pressure from gambling lobbyists after confirming its promised expanded cashless gaming trial was delayed.
The Minns Labor government vowed to begin a cashless gambling trial on 500 poker machines in clubs and pubs on 1 July, but gambling minister David Harris says the establishment of a panel to oversee has been delayed.
Harris said the government was still committed to reducing gambling harm and preventing money laundering.
“I have consulted with a range of stakeholders about the panel including harm minimisation groups, industry representatives and members of parliament,” he said.
“We are in the final stages of putting the independent panel and a robust trial together, and we will have more to say about these changes over the next couple of weeks.”
The panel will include members of the industry and law enforcement, as well as health and gambling experts and academics. They will be asked to report on the trial after a year before it is expanded.
The state Greens’ gambling spokesperson, Cate Faehrmann, said the delay showed the influence of the powerful clubs lobbyists was “alive and kicking” in the new parliament.
“This has all the hallmarks of the gambling industry running interference to delay the implementation of this trial,” she said.
“It doesn’t give you much confidence in the government’s cashless card trial if it can’t even establish a panel to oversee its implementation.”
One of the strongest proponents of gaming reform in the state parliament, independent MP Alex Greenwich, would not be drawn into criticism of the government and welcomed the delay if it meant the trial would be better.
“I welcome the government’s approach – they’ve got to do it right,” he said.
“They’re not going to rush it. We’ve got to make sure that this trial is as robust as possible. I have great confidence in the minister and in the government to be able to deliver that.”
He also said gambling industry members needed to be part of the reform process and he was confident they now understood the need for reform.
The state was on the verge of major gaming reform when the Dominic Perrottet-led Coalition was voted out of power in March.
He had pledged a $344m plan, which would have seen legislation introduced to enable a staged transition to universal cashless gaming between 2024 and 2028.
Labor took a softer policy to the election, promising the trial alongside plans to reduce the feed-in limit for new machines, ban external signage promoting gaming including “VIP lounge” signage and reduce the number of machines overall.
The push for poker machine reform came off the back of a damning NSW crime commission report that found money was being laundered through machines across the state. The commission recommended a cashless system.