Cabinet stoush over cashless cards for pokies

 

There is "no justification" for the NSW government to impose cashless gaming cards on the NSW pokies industry, Deputy Premier John Bari­laro has declared, in a direct rebuke of his senior Liberal cabinet colleague signalling another bitter divide in the government.

Mr Barilaro has lashed plans by Liberal Minister Victor Dominello to reform the gaming industry, in a new feud that could resemble last year's koala dispute, saying "it is not the time to strangle pubs and clubs with red tape".

Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett
Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett

Mr Dominello's reforms, first flagged last year, are ­designed to stop money being laundered through pokies and tackle problem gambling by requiring punters to register for cashless gaming cards.

The plan, which is out for consultation, has been ­roundly rejected by the pubs and clubs industry but ­received some support in this week's Bergin report into Crown's casino licence.

"The Nationals would never support this idea," Mr Barilaro told The Daily ­Telegraph.

"Our pubs and clubs are at the heart of our communities and have worn the brunt of the COVID restrictions and the economic shockwave - now is the time to support this sector, not strangle it with ­expensive red tape."

Mr Dominello, meanwhile, is passionate about his reforms and has steeled himself for a fight on the matter.

The Minister has publicly noted the Bergin report, stating he was pleased it lent credibility to his idea.

"When I started seeing the hard evidence from the Bergin Inquiry about how much money was being laundered through Crown casino, the size of the problem was obvious," Mr Dominello said. "Cash is the common ­denominator.

"If cash remains in the ­system so will organised crime and we cannot turn a blind eye to it."

He said the card "would ­remove cash and money laundering and also address harm minimisation."

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett
Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett

Mr Dominello on Friday said any proposal for a cashless gambling card would need to go to cabinet and the party room, where MPs would "need to make a big ­decision".

Commissioner Patricia Bergin wrote in her report: "The proposal has been the subject of  some public ­debate and is not free from controversy.

"However, it appears that the very significant utility of the card to assist the problem gambler could not be in issue.

"It is also obvious that it would be a powerful mechanism to assist in combating money laundering."

Punters play poker machines at Bankstown District Sports Club in Sydney.
Punters play poker machines at Bankstown District Sports Club in Sydney.

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chairman Philip Crawford said the Bergin report gave the gambling card "a big tick".

Mr Barilaro pointed out the gaming card was not a recommendation of the Bergin report.

He said "the idea of a gambling card is not a policy position of this government, nor has it been flagged, considered or debated by cabinet ministers and party members".

Originally published as Cabinet stoush over cashless cards for pokies



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