Perrottet rejects regional pokie exception

The new laws will make it much harder for addicts to lose vast sums in mere hours.

The new laws will make it much harder for addicts to lose vast sums in mere hours. Photo: AAP

Dominic Perrottet has ruled out exempting NSW regional pubs and clubs from its cashless gaming card rollout, as Nationals MPs call for sensible reform when it comes to poker machines in the bush.

The premier said no regional carve-out would take place under his leadership.

The position is in stark difference to a possible exemption for cashless cards for pubs and clubs in regional NSW that Deputy Premier Paul Toole has been open to.

Asked about discussions between the coalition partners, Mr Toole stressed that pubs and clubs in the bush are very different to pubs and clubs in the city.

“The premier has made it very clear that cashless gaming is the destination,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“I’ve made it very clear that the road to get there needs to be a sensible one because we all know that a large venue in the city is very different to a small venue in the bush.”

The government is yet to release its policy for reform of the state’s poker machine industry, although Mr Perrottet has committed to strong reform of the industry.

“We will fix the problem that was identified by the crime commission. We will protect jobs, we will work with industry, and I believe we can do both,” he said on Thursday.

“The policy is this – we are having cashless gaming in NSW. That is the destination. The finer details are being worked out.”

Both parties have been under pressure to introduce cashless gaming for poker machines, after a NSW Crime Commission report released last year found billions of dollars in dirty cash was being laundered through the machines every year.

The Greens, which has been critical of both parties for the influence of the gambling lobby on both major political parties, said unless a statewide mandatory card is introduced then money laundering would move to the regions.

“If people want to launder a lot of money, it’s very easy for them to jump in a car, head down the coast and gamble away in Nowra,” Greens MP Cate Faehrmann told reporters on Friday.

She also dismissed arguments put forward by Mr Toole that regional clubs are needed to fund grassroots community organisations.

“Those regional clubs say they provide an essential community service … when in actual fact it’s a service the government should be providing”.

Fellow Greens MP Jenny Leong said dwindling support for the Nationals over the last decade shows “how out of touch they are” with regional communities over gambling regulations.

The major reform is a hot button issue ahead of the state election in March.

Labor revealed its poker machine reform policy on Monday, including a 12-month trial of cashless gaming cards, the removal of signs outside gaming venues and new self-exclusion registers.

Party leader Chris Minns hit back at the Coalition on Friday saying “it’s 14 weeks since the Crime Commission Report, it’s about time the speculation ended and the policy was released”.

He has also not committed to introducing cashless gaming on all pokies, saying he wants evidence the cards are effective.

Treasurer Matt Kean described the opposition’s proposed poker machine reforms as a policy “written by the gaming industry”.

“The gaming industry will be popping the champagne corks after reading Chris Minns’ policy,” Mr Kean told reporters on Tuesday.

“This is a gaming policy written by the gaming industry for the gaming industry,” he said.


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