For a few years, there has been talk of moving toward cashless gambling, and as a result of COVID-19, this topic has picked up steam. The implementation of cashless gaming on a voluntary basis has already been seen in Las Vegas and other gaming hubs are contemplating similar advances.
However, New South Wales (NSW) takes the concept of cashless gaming in a somewhat different direction and is said to be proposing legislation that will make it mandatory for gamblers who choose to sit in front of a gaming machine to use cashless cards.
The government of NSW is considering amendments to current gambling legislation that would bring sweeping industry changes. Legislation created last week by senior cabinet minister Victor Dominello did not provide a definite position on the cashless option; however, he was reportedly able to drum up support for the proposal, making it easier for the proposal to be enforced before approving the final rules. The purpose of the cashless alternative is to make it easier to track problem gambling for governments.
Going cashless would mean that to obtain a card, all gamblers who want to play a poker machine would have to register with the government first. In order to recognise someone who has chosen to be exempt from gambling activity, the card will be preloaded with money and connected to NSW’s exclusion registry. Although not clearly stated in a Sydney Morning Herald report, the cashless card will allow the government to know immediately who is gambling on poker machines, and how much they spend.
The idea was not met with a lot of enthusiasm by the machine operators, or the bars and clubs where they were located. Josh Landis, the manager of Clubs NSW, told the news source, “Gaming revenue has fallen 14% year-on-year as a result of the 10-week industry shutdown, while food and beverage takings are down 60% to 70%. I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements.”
Dominello regulated NSW’s gambling laws and his suggestion for improvements to gambling laws included the use of facial recognition as a way of countering gambling problems. It is not outside the realm of possibility if both policies are enforced, but no detail has been given as to who will be paying the bill. NSW has around 95,000 poker machines, and the cost of implementing all of them with a cashless alternative that can do what the government wants will be large.
Opponents of gambling are clearly on board with the steps and a cashless choice and are giving Dominello their support. Tim Costello, the chief lobbyist for the Alliance for Gambling Reform , claims: “It is immensely encouraging to have a minister responsible for gambling in NSW seeking significant reform to support people experiencing issues with gambling, and also speaking about the harms poker machines do in what is effectively the non-casino pokies capital of the world.”