NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello has announced draft legislative changes and news government is seeking community consultation on new measures to reduce problem gambling.

The proposed changes could see venues having to install facial recognition technology to detect self-excluded gamblers, and face fines up to $27,500 for failing to prevent self-excluded gamblers playing.

Gaming venues may also need gambling contact officers trained to recognise signs of problem gambling on duty during trading hours.

The shake-up comes as the NSW government reports a 12 per cent ($200 million) increase in revenue through gaming machines for June to August, compared to the same corresponding period in 2019. This has been reflected in trading announcements, such as by Redcape for its FY21 Q1 revenues.

But the AHA argues the proposed regulatory changes would create more red tape and put a “significant compliance burden” on businesses at the worst possible time.

“COVID restrictions have meant pubs are now facing their most significant challenges in a hundred years — many are struggling to survive, many jobs have been lost,” notes AHA NSW CEO John Whelan.

“We continue to support good harm-minimisation policy, however, we have concerns with this bill.”

The Association points out that several of the harm-minimisation measures in the legislation were originally posed by industry, but fitting facial recognition cameras and technology would cost the industry millions of dollars at a time when it can least afford it. Mandatory compliance measures are likely to threaten venue viability and jobs.

A push for facial recognition systems is in response to reports of widespread problem gambling during and since the shutdowns, with many people believed to have gambled away superannuation and welfare payments. Venues are subjected to self-imposed problem gamblers often attempting to circumvent the ban by wearing wigs or masks to avoid detection.

Both the AHA NSW and ClubsNSW say they are disappointed with the lack of industry consultation on the proposed legislation, as they report gaming revenue down 14 per cent year-on-year, and f&b in Clubs currently down 60-70 per cent. 

“I don’t think anyone would agree that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to introduce onerous new compliance requirements,” suggests ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis.

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