Cashless gaming cards are on the way to New South Wales, according to Dominic Perrottet, despite the premier not having the support of his cabinet or the state opposition on the vexed issue.
The scheme – recommended to be made mandatory by the state’s crime commission to reduce money laundering – received its strongest backing yet from Perrottet on Thursday. The opposition leader, Chris Minns, has refused to commit to the idea.
Perrottet said a cashless gaming card would not be implemented as a “kneejerk response” and would need support from all sides of politics.
“This is not a matter of if we do it, it’s a matter of how we do it,” he said.
Perrottet said NSW had been “profiting off people’s misery” for too long.
“We need to change,” he said.
“This is not about working against each other. It’s about working with each other to affect meaningful change to improve people’s lives across our state.”
Perrottet insisted he was in “constructive discussions” with the lower house crossbench about the implementation of such a scheme and would work with the industry on it, despite gaming groups being vehemently opposed.
While his comments were welcomed by anti-gambling advocates and the crossbench MP Alex Greenwhich, Perrottet will still need to get the Nationals on side.
The deputy premier and leader of the NSW National party, Paul Toole, on Wednesday declared the “the technology is not there”. While the claim was refuted by experts, it revealed the hesitancy of many within the Nationals to act on pokies.
The deputy National party leader, Bronnie Taylor, would not be drawn on her stance on Thursday but said clubs played important roles in areas outside Sydney.
“Our clubs and our pubs in rural and regional NSW are a vital part of our communities,” she said.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t vilify the entire ClubsNSW here.
“We all have the same interest at heart here and that is to protect our most vulnerable.”
Questioned repeatedly on Labor’s plan to tackle problem gambling and money laundering, Minns cited a report that the technology could do more hard than good and insisted it was a complex area.
“You have got an industry that says they don’t have the resources to roll out the technology immediately within a truncated timeframe,” Minns said.
“The second thing is that you’ve got a report from the Victorian [Responsible] Gambling Foundation that indicates that it may induce demand when it comes to problem gambling as a result of there not being a sense of how much you are losing.”
Greenwhich – who is pushing for an inquiry into the influence of gaming lobbies on political parties in the state – questioned why Labor did not have a more defined position.
“Why is it so important for Labor not to have a stance on this?” he said.
He called on both parties to refuse to sign memorandums of understanding with Clubs NSW and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) – which have previously been signed – ahead of the March election.
“The major parties should have agreements with the people of NSW, not vested interests,” he said.
Minns said he was “not inclined” to sign such memorandums as “it implies that our policy proposals, our platform for government, isn’t legitimate or doesn’t hold water .”
The Centre for Public Integrity chair, Anthony Whealy KC, said bipartisanship is needed on the issue.
“Each one is afraid that if they put their neck out, it’ll get chopped off by the gaming industry. They occasionally stick a little toe in the water and then they quickly pull it back”,” he said.
Whealy expressed concern over Minns’s lack of commitment and called on both sides to resist MOUs moving forward.
“It’d be a very good start if they each said now … we will not do this, we won’t sign a memorandum of understanding. That would give the public a lot of courage.”
ClubsNSW chief executive, Josh Landis, dismissed calls for an inquiry as “ridiculous”.
“It assumes that we have an illegitimate influence,” he said.