Top union backs cashless gaming cards

The peak body for unions in NSW is backing the introduction of cashless gaming cards in the state, putting pressure on political ally Labor before the state election in March.

Unions NSW head Mark Morey said cashless cards would help alleviate problem gambling in the community.

The momentum for a cashless card comes after the NSW Crime Commission found billions of dollars of “dirty” cash were being funnelled through poker machines in pubs and clubs every year.

“What I want to see is one more hurdle put in the way, so that people think about what they do when they put more money into the pokie machine so they’re not churning through a whole week of wages,” Mr Morey told AAP on Thursday.

“This is not prohibition. This is a harm minimisation strategy. It’s about trying to give people time to think again before they put in more money.”

He said the business model of the gaming industry relied on people being addicted and mandating a cashless card would “at least put another hurdle in the way of stopping people becoming addicted”.

“$95 billion goes through the pokie machines every year. Why would they (the gambling industry) want it to change? They’re making profits off people suffering,” he said.

“What we’re seeing is certainly the poorest postcodes is where the highest incidence of gambling is occurring.

“That wealth is transferring from those working communities to a few people that live on (Sydney’s) north shore or eastern suburbs.”

His advocacy comes on the back of other unions such as the Health Services Union.

Labor leader Chris Minns says he supports an expanded trial of a cashless gaming card, but added there is evidence suggesting the cards could create harm.

Mr Minns has repeatedly cited a 2020 Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation report that showed cashless gaming cards could induce problem gambling.

Labor health spokesperson Ryan Park said on Thursday even though problem gambling was a “scourge on our community”, the party wanted to work on policy reforms before rushing to support the cards.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who has been spearheading a campaign to phase out pokies in pubs, also called on Labor to listen to concerned voters.

“The only friend Labor has on this issue is the greedy gambling industry that is only interested in protecting the billions in pokies profits they take out of our communities,” she said.

“Voters are demanding integrity from their politicians. That means calling out the predatory behaviour of Clubs NSW not being their greatest defender.”

The political pressure to support the cards comes after Premier Dominic Perrottet’s promise for several months to implement the cards, without giving a timeline.

He argued it would reduce crime as well as harm to problem gamblers.

The commission’s report revealed a significant amount of the $95 billion put into pokies every year was the proceeds of crime.

While few were using machines to launder money, many criminals were gambling away their crime profits.

The report said money laundering remained an endemic part of the industry because pokies “primarily accept cash and because cash continues to be the primary method by which criminals obtain wealth from dealing in illicit commodities”.

Clubs NSW head Josh Landis previously said punters would be made to feel like criminals if a cashless card was introduced.

“You don’t have restrictions on poker machines that treat everyone like they are criminals to try and stop criminals spending money,” he said.

The average poker machine in NSW is making 25 per cent more than it did three years ago, with some machines raking in $8700 a week, according to new figures published by the gaming regulator.

An analysis of half-yearly data shows poker profits in pubs and clubs have jumped 20 per cent since early 2019.

That’s despite the number of machines statewide falling five per cent to 91,420 by June 2022.

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