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NSW warns of “escalated” action against venues with gambling signage

| By Robert Fletcher
Liquor & Gaming New South Wales (L&GNSW) has warned of “escalated” action against venues not abiding with new laws in the Australian state over gambling-related signage.
NSW gambling signage

External signage promoting gambling at venues has been banned in NSW since 1 September this year. Interior signage that can be seen from outside a building is also banned. 

The rules apply to pubs and clubs and include fixed un-illuminated awning signs to digital video displays. Banned names include VIP Room/Lounge, Golden Room/Lounge, Players’ Room/Lounge and Prosperity Room/Lounge. Images of dragons, coins or lightning motifs are also covered by the ban.

Venues that fail to remove signage face fines of up to AU$11,000 (£5,767/€6,730/US$7,303) per offence. Those that do not take down signage when requested also face a maximum fine of $11,000.

In October, L&GNSW said 99% of venues in the state had complied with the new rules and removed all signage. However, the regulator says it has taken action against some facilities that continued to display gambling-related signs.

As such, from 1 December, L&GNSW has pledged escalated enforcement action against any venue with illegal signage. The regulator says the zero-tolerance approach marks the third and final stage of the signage compliance programme.

Clamping down on rules breaches in NSW

L&GNSW flagged a number of cases where it has taken action. Two venues were ordered to remove new signage that tried to circumvent the ban by using imagery extremely similar to visuals used on electronic gaming machines.

The Royal Hotel at Granville was using cartoon imagery to promote the hotel’s restaurant. However, L&GNSW said the imagery is similar to that used in the “Choy’s Kingdom” electronic gaming machine. The venue complied with the direction to remove the signage but applied for this decision to be reviewed by the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority.

In another case, signage at the Stardust Hotel at Cabramatta featured animations of a panda holding and chewing on a branch or plant. This, inspectors said, was similar to images used in the “Panda Magic” electronic gaming machine. As such, the licensee was issued a statutory direction to cease the use of the digital archway.

“Any signage that attempts to circumvent the prohibition on gambling-related signage will be met with an escalated enforcement response,” said NSW’s minister for gaming and racing, David Harris. “This includes the use of animations, symbols or characters commonly associated with gambling, poker machine graphics or gambling franchises.

“Since the ban took effect in September, Liquor & Gaming inspectors have attended over 1,200 venues across 53 local government areas in NSW, including 19 regional LGAs, which represents over 55% of the venues in the state that hold gaming machine entitlements. Inspections have indicated a compliance rate of 99% for external gaming related signage.

“By now, venue operators should have a full understanding of the requirements and all illegal signage should be removed. Removing this signage is just one important part of our commitment to gambling reform to reduce harm and tackle money laundering head on in NSW.”

Wider responsible gambling push in NSW

The removal of signage forms part of a wider initiative to strengthen responsible gambling measures in NSW.

Since March, the NSW government has also reduced the cash input limit in all new poker machines from $5,000 to $500. This rule change came into effect on 1 July.

Meanwhile, the state-wide cap on gaming machine entitlements has been reduced by approximately 3,000. Political donations from clubs involved in gaming are now banned, while an independent panel has been established to oversee a trial of cashless gaming.

In addition, NSW announced it would be granting a new $100.0m funding injection to reduce gambling harm. A range of programmes will be funded by redirecting the $100.0m fine imposed on Star Entertainment in October 2022.

Casinos face higher tax rates

On the subject of Star, the NSW government last month also confirmed tax increases for land-based casinos. The government reached an agreement in principle over a shorter increase in rates in the summer. These rates have now been confirmed and are deemed effective from 1 July this year.

Changes include rebate play rate increasing from 10.0% to 12.5% and non-rebate play on table games 17.91% to 20.25%. 

Non-rebate rates for poker machines (pokies) will remain unchanged for the time being at 20.91%. However, this will increase to 21.91% from 1 July 2024 and then 22.91% from 1 July 2027.

From 30 June 2030, the rate will switch to a tiered system. Again, this is in line with what was suggested by the previous government.

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