NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello told a parliamentary estimates hearing on Monday he was “very much against” a government-issued gambling card and it should be left to the industry to develop it.
Mr Dominello, who has publicly advocated for poker machine reform since October, said while there should be government oversight into the development of any cashless card, tasking the state with its implementation would be “poor design”.
While early discussions for the measure canvassed a state-issued card, Mr Dominello, who has responsibility for gambling, distanced the government from the plan on Monday.
“I don’t think it should be government issued at all, governments are not in the business of gambling. That’s a matter for industry, it should be an industry issued card,” he said.
“This is my personal view, all of these things need to be thrashed out before cabinet and take their appropriate course, but from a design perspective I would be against a government-issued card, I just think that’s poor design.”
Mr Dominello has faced fierce opposition from the pubs and clubs over the slated reform, as well as members of his own government, including Deputy Premier John Barilaro who described the plan as a “knee-jerk reaction” that would never be supported by the Nationals.
ClubsNSW recently submitted its proposal for a digital wallet trial to the government’s gaming machine technology working group, which would include personal spending limits and the quarantining of large payouts.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s report into Crown Resorts’ capacity to hold a licence for its new Sydney casino at Barangaroo noted that a gambling card would be a “powerful mechanism” in tackling money laundering.
In one report for a single local government area over a 12-hour period on August 4 last year, there were repeated cases of player behaviour that points to money laundering.
Asked whether leaving industry to design and operate a gambling card could allow it to track behaviour and target problem gamblers, Mr Dominello said the program would have appropriate government oversight.
Mr Dominello garnered cross-bench support in the upper house for the plan last year, including the Greens and One Nation.
NSW’s 95,000 poker machines bring in $1 billion in state taxes each year and create as many as 100,000 jobs, including in sophisticated gaming machine manufacture.
The government anticipates it will generate $2.8 billion in gambling taxes this financial year, which is a 27 per cent increase from 2019/20.
A Treasury official told budget estimates the increase was attributed to higher disposable income from the federal government’s coronavirus stimulus measures, as well as delayed consumption from lockdowns and a wider shift in “leisure spending”.
Mr Dominello was asked by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann whether an optional gambling card would prove effective, he said people in NSW had proven capable of adopting new technology.
“I don’t know of a problem that can’t be solved with a digital solution and I will always be an advocate for that,” Mr Dominello said.
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Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.