when were poker machines introduced in nsw

No matter your position on pokies in pubs, they have become part of Australian life. But many feel resentful of how gambling affects their communities and states; many wish for change and this election offers a key chance to effect it.

At stake in NSW is an election between two camps who support different approaches to pokie regulation: Coalition government supporters who favor current pokie regime vs Opposition who wants mandatory cashless cards, self-exclusion register and ban on political party accepting donations from clubs with poker machines as well as removal of “VIP Lounge” signs outside venues and end club-politician connections.

An analysis by the New South Wales Crime Commission into money laundering via poker machines has renewed calls for reform. Their report identified billions in annual poker machine turnover as potential proceeds of crime, prompting alarm over lax anti-money laundering measures in NSW clubs.

No matter the controversy, it’s essential to keep in mind that most people playing pokies in NSW do so responsibly. There are myriad programs backed by millions of dollars designed to aid those experiencing difficulties gambling, while clubs often go beyond legal obligations to safeguard gamblers’ welfare. Furthermore, our problem gambling rates remain steady or are declining relative to other states.

But there is much that can still be done. The first step should be gathering more accurate information on how much each poker machine in NSW brings in, but this won’t be easy due to most clubs being established as not-for-profit mutual organisations that do not pay corporate tax and don’t publish this data publicly.

The second step should be improving regulatory oversight and enforcement of existing laws. The industry association has pledged its support for harm minimisation initiatives which have proven effective, while the Coalition has promised to review current policy following this new revelations. To ensure meaningful reform occurs it’s vital that NSW government remains independent from gaming lobby groups.

Thirdly, we must increase public awareness of the harms associated with gambling. There’s an immense amount of misinformation out there and no understanding about what problem gambling is or how it should be treated. More people must access specialist treatment and prevention services and their community should also receive education regarding risks of gambling.

Finally, we must reevaluate the role of poker machines in our society. They shouldn’t be used as an attack weapon against industries or politicians – such as using them to attack integrity of politicians – while there could be plenty of reform opportunities including reducing maximum bet per spin, restricting their locations and banning “losses disguised as wins” when machines make noises to make you believe you won when in fact you lost. These simple measures could make an enormous difference. It’s time we stop blaming pokies for all social ills; that strategy just isn’t working and wasted opportunities should not be wasted!