Cashless pokies are set to make an appearance in a Newcastle club in the NSW for the first time since the proposal of revolutionary reforms last October. Aristocrat Gaming will conduct the trials and oversee cashless payments for pokies and all club services. According to Victor Dominello, the NSW Customer Service Minister, cashless pokies offer a solution for combating problem gambling and money laundering. The introduction of cashless pokie machines was one of the proposals made after an 18-month inquiry into Crown Resorts exposed money-laundering allegations. The subject became even more popular when a man took his own life after binging on pokie machines. Here's a quick overview of cashless pokies and how they will work.
What Are Cashless Pokies?
As the name suggests, cashless pokies will eliminate hard cash, forcing players to sign up for a card, which will then be used to pay for games. Players will be required to pre-load their cards, just like it is done with the public transportation Opal Cards. This will allow operators to collect more information about their customers and set measures to identify those registered on the state's self-exclusion program. Operators will also know who is playing and how much they are spending, which is vital in helping problem gamblers. In simple terms, cashless pokies will require a government-regulated card overseen by the Privacy Commissioner instead of the usual chips and cash.
How Will Cashless Pokies Work?
Cashless pokies will use a straightforward framework that involves signing up for a card, pre-loading it with money and using it to play your favourite pokie. Here’s how it will work if the option becomes a reality.
- The Switch: All pokies must switch to cashless technology, whether through modification or replacement.
- Player Cards: Players will require a card to play games. To get the card, they must register with the government. If they are part of the national self-exclusion, they won't be able to get the card.
- Loading Money: Players who receive the card will have the freedom to load it with any amount they decide.
- Monitoring: NSW will track players, identifying who is playing pokies, the betting location and how much they are spending.
- Restrictions: Operators will efficiently block self-excluded players and help regulate other measures such as betting limits and cool off periods.
The Expected Benefits
The push behind cashless pokies is obvious and straightforward. According to the Ministry of Customer Service and other parties supporting the option, cashless pokies will go a long way in fighting organized crime and money laundering. Problem gamblers will also get the help they need to regain control of their pastime. Here are three top benefits of cashless pokie machines.
- No Way around Self-Exclusion: According to a 2019 NSW gambling survey, about 92% of players registered for self-exclusion can still gain access to a venue and explore pokie machines. As things stand, there's no sanction for such individuals or venues that accept them. If cashless machines are adopted, excluded players won’t be able to get a card. The proposed reforms also include a $27,000 fine for venues that accept players with self-exclusion.
- Combating Money Laundering: The NSW gaming machines industry is worth $6 billion, and around 20% of that is 'almost certainly' linked with crime. Money launderers can bet large amounts of money in a pokie, play for a couple of minutes and cash out. They can then claim to have had a good payout from the pokie, and since there's no way of tracing them, authorities can't link the money with a crime. Cashless cards will allow NSW to know who is playing pokies, where they are playing, how much they have on the cards, the bet and payout.
- Helping Problem Gamblers: According to the 2019 NSW survey, about 53% of adults have a gambling addiction. Unfortunately, existing schemes leave many loopholes that players use to access gambling venues, despite the adverse effects. Cashless cards will make it harder to beat self-exclusion schemes and other measures, such as betting limits. The reforms also allow family members to apply for national self-exclusion on behalf of the player.
When Does It All Start?
The first trial of cashless pokies is expected in September and will include other responsible gambling measures, such as money limits, session time limits, real-time messaging and information sharing. Aristocrat Gaming and Wests Newcastle will lead the trials. According to Aristocrat Gaming CEO and Chief Transformation Officer Mitchell Bowen, the new cashless payment trials will enhance the long-term sustainability and vibrancy of the industry by helping patrons to manage their playing. Since the proposal of gambling reformations, Mr Dominello has received crossbench support thanks to unlikely alliances between the Greens and Mark Latham from One Nation. Church leaders are also urging MPs to support the new reforms and pass the cashless system amidst vehement opposition from the clubs.
It won't be the first time cashless pokies are tried in the world. In 2014, Canada said goodbye to their cashless pokie payments after they proved unfruitful. However, the Canadian system didn't link player identity, which allowed gamblers to hold multiple cards, swap with others and exploit other loopholes. Since then, no other country has tried cashless pokie machines, until now. Whether this system becomes a new norm in NSW is still to be seen. However, strong indicators suggest venues will be required to adopt the cashless system sooner rather than later, especially if the Aristocrat trial is successful.