The national anti-money laundering agency has thrown its weight behind the push to introduce cashless gaming machines in Victoria’s pubs and clubs.
Premier Daniel Andrews has so far been circumspect about the prospect of adopting the NSW government’s historic poker machine reforms, which will ban the use of cash and transfers from credit cards, and introduce mandatory self-imposed player limits on losses.
The Andrews government remains circumspect about the prospect of further gambling reform.Credit:Peter Braig
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet this week invited Victoria to join forces with his government to extend cashless gaming to Victoria’s 29,000 poker machines at pubs, clubs and RSL venues to tackle what is considered a growing national problem.
But on Wednesday, Andrews suggested the gambling reform push was not a priority. He said while he was open to further gambling reforms, he was focused on teaming up with NSW to pressure the federal government to fix the country’s ailing healthcare system.
“Our focus is very clear … on making Medicare work, taking the pressure off our hospitals, and indeed hospital reform,” Andrews said.
Victoria last year introduced laws targeting Crown’s 2628 poker machines, including mandatory pre-commitment swipe cards that will by the end of this year force gamblers at the casino to specify maximum losses before they play.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Getty
But the crackdown, following the recommendations of the Finkelstein royal commission into Crown, has left Victoria’s other 26,380 poker machines in pubs, clubs and RSL venues operating under a different regulatory regime, with a voluntary system known as YourPlay.
Law enforcement bodies and anti-gambling experts have warned that the Crown crackdown will merely cause a “leakage” of money laundering activity and problem gamblers from the casino to other venues.
Austrac, which is responsible for tackling money laundering and other financial activity by criminals, on Thursday told The Age in a statement that removing the “significant volumes” of cash being pumped into poker machines would minimise the risk of criminal activity.
“Cash remains a key element through which criminals will spend and launder the proceeds of crime,” it said. “Removing significant volumes of cash from being placed into gambling machines will minimise risk.”
Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission chief executive Annette Kimmitt.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
Austrac said measures to improve the identification of gamblers would also make it easier for gaming venues to comply with their obligations to report suspicious activity and help prevent gambling harm.
The state pokies regulator also suggested it supported further reforms to tackle problem gambling and money laundering.
On Thursday, Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission chief executive Annette Kimmitt told The Age: “The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission would welcome any reforms to Victorian gambling laws that would further assist to ensure Victoria’s gambling industry operates with integrity, is safe and fair.”
A senior police source, not authorised to comment publicly, also warned the tightening of gambling laws in NSW could push money laundering problems into Victoria’s pubs and clubs, which suggested a unified approach was needed.
Victoria remains relatively less dependent on poker machine revenue than NSW. Victoria is expected to raise about $1.2 billion from poker machine taxes next financial year (excluding poker machines at Crown), after a lockdown-induced slump in 2019-20 and 2021-22. That compares to about $2 billion expected from NSW pub and hotel gaming machines in 2022-23.
In Victoria, gaming machine revenue is equivalent to about 4 per cent of total tax revenue, compared to 5.1 per cent in NSW. By mid-2026, the proportion in Victoria is expected to fall to 3.8 per cent.
As revealed in The Age in November, in the lead-up to the Victorian election, the state’s powerful clubs lobby received letters of comfort from the state government supporting the status quo in the regulation of pub and club gaming.
In November, The Age revealed Gaming Minister Melissa Horne and the opposition’s gaming spokesman, Danny O’Brien, had both assured the powerful Community Clubs Victoria, which represents pubs, clubs and RSL venues but excludes Crown casino, that there would be no upcoming policy changes that eat into gaming machine revenue.
That assurance followed data pointing to record poker machine losses in pubs and clubs.
Before the 2018 state election, the Australia Hotel and Hospitality Association poured almost $1 million into Labor and its former fundraising arm, Progressive Business, which made it the biggest corporate contribution to a political party in Victoria.
Since then, the state has introduced tough new donation laws limiting the amount that can be donated by a single entity, to $4320 per four-year electoral cycle.
Victorian Electoral Commission returns show the Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association donated the maximum $4320 to state Labor on November 25, 2022, one day before the state election.
But it was even more generous to the Coalition, handing over $2518 to the Victorian division of the Liberal Party and $2700 to the state division of the Nationals.
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