The Greens have launched their plan to get gambling out of NSW politics and to address the significant and growing harm caused by the more than 90,000 poker machines in NSW clubs and pubs.
At the centre of the initiative announced today is a strategy to remove the unmanageable conflict of interest both the Coalition and Labor have when it comes to gambling in NSW.
NSW Greens MP and Gambling Harm spokesperson Justin Field said, “Both parties take massive donations from gambling businesses, the Coalition has a signed agreement with the clubs industry to protect pokie profits and Labor actually owns poker machines in a number of Labor Clubs. They’ve got a direct conflict of interest in both regulating and profiting from this industry and it is clearly affecting their willingness to address the issues of community harm from gambling.
“It’s not just the pokies. The public were furious at the special deal Racing NSW got to advertise the Everest horse race on the Opera House sails, and the millions gifted to revive the disgraceful greyhound racing industry. The gambling and racing industry seem to always get their way and neither of the major parties ever challenges them.
The Greens plan includes:
· A Special Commission of Inquiry into the influence of the gambling industry on NSW politics.
· A 10 year plan to phase pokies out of our communities, with a $7 billion transition package.
· Reduce losses by introducing $1 maximum bets and ending club loyalty and reward programs that encourage more betting.
· Putting an end to formal agreements between political parties and organisations involved in gambling.
· Removing the exemption that allows not for profit clubs to donate to political parties
· Ban gambling advertising on public infrastructure like at train stations and on the Opera House.
The plan seeks to deal with the significant issue of poker machines in NSW.
NSW has the largest number of poker machines of any jurisdiction in the world other than Las Vegas and the NSW community loses more money per person every year to gambling than anywhere else in the world.
Mr Field said, “It’s clear we have a pokie problem in NSW. The harm caused from losing almost $7 billion dollars a year on the pokies is unmeasurable. It directly causes financial stress, housing insecurity and homelessness, relationship breakdowns, domestic violence and suicide. They suck money out of the community that would otherwise be going back to local businesses. There is no upside.
The Greens have outlined a strategy to phase out poker machines in clubs and hotels over 10 years and a $7 billion industry transition fund to ensure these business are able to move away from a reliance on poker machines. This support package includes financial incentives
for pubs and clubs to surrender machines, low interest loans to clubs transitioning to a business model without pokies and training opportunities for clubs and staff. The plan also introduces a $1 billion Community Grants Trust Fund to provide ongoing support to local sport and community organisations.
“Our plan to phase pokies out of our communities in NSW has been modelled off the proposal of the progressive Labor Party in Tasmania. Unfortunately, the lobbying power of Clubs NSW and the Australian Hotels Association meant that plan was not introduced. Unlike the major parties in NSW, the Greens will not be coerced by the gambling industry and will stand firm with a plan to put people before pokies.
“I recognise this is a big shift and will be challenged strongly by the clubs and hotels because they have built their businesses to be reliant on the profits and they are huge. But it comes with a huge cost and we need to put people before the pokies.
“The Greens will be pushing strongly for a strategy to reduce and phase out machines in NSW, but there are a range of other measures that could be taken now to reduce harm including moving to $1 maximum bets and banning rewards and loyalty programs that encourage people to continue to gamble.
“In the last 12 months there have been a number of investigations launched into serious unconscionable conduct by major hotels and clubs when it comes to trying to induce and manipulate people to lose more money on the pokies. It’s clear the profit motive is driving outrageous abuses of the rules and that is having a significant impact in local communities. This needs to change,“ Mr Field said.
The full Greens’ plan can be read here.