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NSW government accused of bowing to gambling industry

Angry senior man pointing his finger towards you

For the second time in a week, the government of New South Wales has been accused of giving way to the gambling lobby, this time over potential regulations regarding poker machine or ‘pokies’.

The new row follows the controversy caused when horse-racing advertising was permitted on the Sydney Opera House sails, and concerns a four-year poker machine agreement that the premier of the state, Gladys Berejiklian, has penned with Clubs NSW, which runs 1200 venues in the state.

According to the terms of the deal, Berejiklan has promised not to increase gambling taxation if her government is successful in next March’s state elections. The deal also includes a guarantee that the level of mandatory contributions made by clubs to the local community will not increase, and although the maximum stake on poker machines is set to be cut from $7,500 to $5,000, it remains the highest level in the country. The deal also commits Clubs NSW to provide extra training for staff to be able to recognise problem gambling and for families to be able to have gambling addicts banned.

Tinkering at the edges

The deal has been criticised by gambling organisations, including the Alliance for Gambling Reform. On Sunday, their spokesman Tim Costello said that the harm minimisation measures included in the agreement were merely tinkering at the edges of the problem and he predicted that what he described as long-overdue poker machine reforms in NSW could be delayed until 2023:

“Today’s report is particularly disgraceful …Gladys Berejiklian needs to explain why she has capitulated to the gambling industry twice in one week.”

Last week, Berejiklian had intervened personally to permit the Everest Cup horse race to be advertised on the sails of the Sydney Opera House, against the wishes of Opera House chief executive, Louise Herron. Hours earlier, controversial radio broadcaster Alan Jones – who has links with the NSW gambling industry – had called for her to be sacked. Berejiklian’s intervention led to a public backlash and condemnation across Australia.

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