Compulsory gaming cards designed to curb problem gamblers’ losses are loaded with risks and could actually result in them “overspending” and dropping even more money on poker machines, a leaked ministerial briefing reveals.
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello’s proposal to revolutionise regulations around poker machines, requiring gamblers to pre-load money on to regulated cards that would be linked to their identity, has faced heavy opposition before it has even reached cabinet.
In the briefing obtained by The Australian, several key risks with Mr Dominello’s NSW gaming card were identified, including “overspending and increased losses” and “fewer welfare checks”.
Prepared by Liquor & Gaming NSW, the report said there was evidence cashless payment methods could lead to problem gamblers spending more at pokies, as they “require less thinking about the cost and affordability of a transaction”.
“Research also highlights that digital forms of payment appear to lead to increased gambling and losses, particularly for problem gamblers, as people feel they are not spending ‘real money’,” the ministerial briefing said.
Gambling Treatment and Research Centre director Sally Gainsbury said it was “inevitable” that gaming machines would become cashless, and it was important to use the transition as an avenue to improve harm minimisation measures in venues.
“Whether it is two years or five years or 10 years, we’re going to have to respond to a cashless gambling system,” Dr Gainsbury, the leader of the Brain & Mind Centre’s technology addiction team, said on Tuesday.
“From my point of view, it’s really important we do research now. Let’s start designing systems that have safety built into them.”
The Liquor & Gaming NSW report also notes there is “limited empirical support” for the effectiveness of voluntary money and time limit-setting, although the latter’s evidence “appears more promising”.
Mr Dominello has faced opposition to mandating the card from ClubsNSW, the industry group representing many venues that rely on poker machines financially, which says the move could cut revenues by $1.8bn.
That could cost 9000 jobs, ClubsNSW said.
“ClubsNSW has been saying all along that a mandatory gambling card won’t help problem gamblers but will hurt clubs, putting jobs and community support at risk,” a spokesman said.
“Instead, it makes sense to explore the wide range of technological options, trial them and see which works best for venues and punters in order to avoid exacerbating problem gambling.”
A gaming card, the confidential report says, would help gamblers by forcing them to step away from machines to deposit new funds.
“By interrupting their state of dissociation, a break in play can allow customers to evaluate and reappraise their own gambling behaviours,” it reads. The card would also allow tailored messages to be given to players based on their behaviour.
While Mr Dominello said the gambling card could be used to also combat money laundering, the Department of Customer Service’s deputy secretary, Rose Webb, was on Monday unable to name one venue where the regulator’s monitoring system had identified suspicious activity related to pokies machines.