The changes are set out in the Gaming Machines Amendment (Gambling Harm Minimisation) Bill 2020, an update to the 2001 Gaming Machines Act.
Should the bill pass into law, clubs and hotels would be required to actively identify and assist gaming machine players displaying problem gambling behaviour, rather than only taking action when they specifically ask for help.
To ensure these players are identified, a person that has completed Liquor & Gaming NSW’s advanced Responsible Conduct of Gambling training must be on duty when machines are being used, to monitor customer activity.
Venues would also be required to record any incidents related to gambling, and record them on an incident register. This brings gambling in line with liquor in the state, where a similar measure is already in place.
Self-exclusion, meanwhile, would be tightened up by allowing players to block access to gambling through an online portal, rather than requiring them to visit individual venues to block access. Gamblers will also be able to self-exclude for shorter periods, rather than the current minimum six month period.
Upon self-excluding, venues must suspend the player’s account and any reward scheme membership, as well as refunding their balances and automatically referring them to counselling services.
This will be complemented by a new exclusion scheme whereby family members will apply to have a hotel or club ban someone whose problem gambling behaviour is causing harm to themselves or others. The venues will need to refer these people to counselling services before they can complete the application, and a decision must be made within 21 days of the request being lodged. Venues can also use this new scheme to involuntarily exclude those they feel are gambling unsustainably.
This will be underpinned by a new state-wide self-exclusion register, meaning all exclusions are managed centrally, and ensure problem gamblers are unable to move from venue to venue.
Any winnings from self-excluded or underage players that manage to gamble will be forfeited to the state’s Responsible Gambling Fund.
New penalties will also be imposed on venues for a number of offences, such as publishing gaming machine advertising, failing to provide activity statements to patrons or installing cash dispensers that allows customers to gamble on credit. The minimum fine rises from AU$11,000 (£6,089/€6,669/US$7,787) to a maximum of $27,500 under the Gaming Machines Amendment (Gambling Harm Minimisation) Bill.
The government is accepting public comments on the proposed legislation until 30 October.
Efforts to tighten player protection regulations in New South Wales come in the wake of a number of high profile incidents in the state.
Last month Star Entertainment Group was fined $90,000 by the state’s Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority for three separate incidents of underage gambling at its Sydney Casino. In July a record $200,000 fine was issued to a club for failing to protect a problem gambler who later committed suicide.