The NSW government has signed an election deal with the state’s clubs to leave taxes and regulations unchanged despite criticism their thousands of pokie machines siphon billions of dollars from vulnerable people each year.
The memorandum of understanding, released on Sunday, shows Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and Racing Minister Paul Toole had come to an agreement with Clubs NSW president Paul Newell ahead of the March 2019 election.
If elected the coalition will not change gaming taxes because they ‘recognise the importance of operating certainty for clubs’ which will contribute $3.4 billion to state coffers.
The coalition will also maintain the current regulations for gaming with any changes ‘subject to rigorous assessment, evaluation and stakeholder management’.
The agreement points out the importance of clubs in creating jobs and community spaces as well as the ClubGRANTS program – which obliges large clubs to fund community projects.
The government pledged to cut red tape, increase transparency and make it easier for community groups to apply for grants as clubs prepare to spend $348 million over the next four years.
Greens MLC Justin Field said the government should be signing an agreement with the people of NSW to address the problems gambling creates across the state.
‘This is just the latest example of the NSW coalition siding with the vested interests in the gambling industry over the community interest,’ he said in a statement on Sunday.
‘NSW has the highest number of poker machines in Australia and loses more money per person than any other jurisdiction in the world. This agreement will block essential reform to reduce the number of pokies and reduce harm.’
He pointed to a treasury documents, released earlier this year, which revealed pokies were expected to make $7 billion in profit by 2021.
The coalition’s agreement pledges to keep rolling out harm minimisation strategies which include more robust exclusion zones, training staff to identify problem gambling and reducing the amount of cash a gambler can put into the pokies from $7500 to $5000.
But Mr Field said there should be a public inquiry into the industry which this year has been dogged by accusations of machine tampering, hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations, as well as targeting problem gamblers and disadvantaged suburbs.