Rev Costello says NSW Labor gambling reforms ‘lack substance’

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One of Australia’s most prominent gambling reform advocates, Reverend Tim Costello, has described NSW Labor’s proposed changes to state gaming regulations as having no substance and lacking the decisiveness of Premier Dominic Perrottet’s policy.

In a commentary published in The Guardian, Costello pointed out that while some of the reforms could stand, in the long run they would not bring the drastic change needed in the gambling industry of New South Wales. He criticised Labor’s proposed policy as being evidence of the extreme control the gambling industry has on the government. 

The Labor Party, led by Chris Minns, recently outlined its plans for gambling reform in the state. The party promised to ban the use of “VIP Lounge” signage outside pubs and clubs, reduce pokies numbers, and extend trials of the cashless gambling technology in the state to determine the effectiveness and know the extent to which the technology will affect workers in the industry. 

To that, Costello says it is a means of “kicking the issue into the long grass” while pandering to the wishes of the powerful gambling industry. According to the clergyman, this will continue to hurt the community in a country that records the greatest gambling losses per capita in the world.

For Costello, Perrottet’s push for cashless gaming is the best solution for the pervasive problem gambling that is being recorded in the state, as well as money laundering. Once the technology is universal, it will not only discourage criminals from using poker machines to clean their dirty cash; it will give problem gamblers a semblance of control over the time and money they spend on the pokies. 

READ: NSW Crime Commission says billions laundered through pokies

According to the clergyman, Australia’s politicians are skittish about effecting drastic reforms because it will affect one of their biggest patrons — the gambling industry. Introducing a mandatory pre-commitment scheme such as cashless gaming cards will reduce the potential for big spending by players on pokies, while fitting the machines with the technology will also translate to more expense for the industry.

Costello believes much more could be done to limit gambling harm. His suggestions include lowering the spin rate of machines, banning losses disguised as wins, and reducing the maximum bet. He also wants Australian lawmakers to look to Norway, which has become the gold standard in reducing gambling harm through its introduction of cashless machines, daily betting limits, mandatory breaks in play, lower bets, lower prizes, and player-exclusion options. 

Reverend Costello concluded his commentary by noting that the average NSW citizen is tired of the “stranglehold poker machines and the gambling industry have on their state” and, as such, Labor should be striving to do better for the people. He urged citizens to fight for “real gambling reform policies” regardless of who wins the election in March.