NSW’s cashless gambling trial expands to include nearly 4,500 poker machines

The Guardian  -  Tamsin Rose NSW state correspondent - Fri 15 Dec 2023

Program to start in 2024 with nine times more pokies than initially planned by Labor

Almost 4,500 poker machines across 24 local government areas will be included in the New South Wales government’s cashless gambling trial to begin early next year.

The expanded trial will take place across 28 clubs of varying sizes, with advocates hoping it leads to universal cashless gaming in NSW, after both major parties put forward gambling reform plans at the March election.

In July the government announced that Michael Foggo, a former liquor, gaming and racing commissioner, would lead a panel of 16 industry representatives and reform advocates, who would then report back to the government in November 2024.

Foggo said there had been a “large number” of clubs applying to take part in the trial.

“This demonstrates the depth of genuine support this trial has in the industry and its commitment to addressing gambling harm and money laundering,” he said.

When he was announced in his role, Foggo said he wanted to expand the trial from the slated 500 machines to at least 2,500 more to enable “proper research analysis”.

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Data will be collected from the machines and then analysed as part of the trial. The effects on club and hotel employees, as well as infrastructure requirements and costs, will also be considered.

The premier, Chris Minns, has vowed to make public the panel’s findings and promised to implement cashless gaming if it works.

The gambling minister, David Harris, said the trial was “bigger, broader and delivers nine times more machines” than the initial proposal.

“The strong interest in participating in the cashless gaming trial proves just how serious clubs and hotels are about working with the government to reduce gambling harm and money laundering associated with electronic gaming machines,” he said.

 “The industry is clearly behind us as we undergo these landmark gaming reforms as part of our commitment to addressing money laundering and gambling harm in NSW.”

NSW residents lost $4.3bn to poker machines in six months last year – $820m more than the total losses recorded in a similar period before the pandemic.

More than 220 new machines were installed across venues over the same period, taking the state total to 86,872.

Total gaming machine net profits jumped 11% to $4.26bn – 24% higher than the $3.44bn reached in the last six months of 2019.