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NSW government commits £52m to reduce gambling harm

| By Robert Fletcher
The New South Wales (NSW) government has announced a funding injection of AU$100.0m (£52.3m/€60.3m/US$64.3m) to help reduce gambling harm across the Australian state.
NSW gambling harm

The commitment forms part of the first budget from the Minns Labor government, elected to power earlier this year. Led by Chris Minns of the Australian Labor Party, the new-look, minority government took control in NSW in March.

Under the plans, funds will be used to support a range of harm minimisation initiatives and projects across the state. The effort will be funded by redirecting a $100.0m fine imposed on Star Entertainment Group last year.

Star was declared unsuitable to hold a casino licence in NSW after Adam Bell SC’s report outlined anti-money laundering and social responsibility failings at Star Sydney stretching back for years. This ultimately led to the fine being issued by the NSW Independent Casino Commission.

Supporting gambling harm reduction efforts

Funding is being split across a range of services and initiatives including $10.0m to the Responsible Gambling Fund in 2023-24. This will be used to support GambleAware support services, awareness and education campaigns and initiatives and research.

Some $6.4m is going towards improvements for self-exclusion schemes such as introducing third-party exclusions in pubs and clubs. A further $3.4m is being used to support a new, independent panel set up to oversee gambling reform in NSW. This includes a cashless gaming trial in pubs and club announced earlier this year.

In addition, $21.7m will be spent each year, for three years from 2024-25, to fund other gambling harm minimisation initiatives and reforms. These include those recommended by the independent panel.

Ongoing commitment from NSW government

“This government has a clear focus and is committed to evidence-based reform,” the government said. “We know that when gambling becomes a problem, it is harmful to the person and the people around them, negatively impacting relationships, work life, finances and physical and mental wellbeing.

“This first Minns Labor budget delivers on our election commitment to deliver responsible gaming reform that prevents harm and prioritises support for those affected by gambling harm.”

Since being elected in March, the government has announced a series of other measures to combat gambling harm.

These include a ban on political donations from clubs involved in gaming and a reduction on cash input limit for all new poker machines. Since 1 July, the new limit has been set at $500, compared to the existing $5,000 threshold.

Other actions include cutting the number of gaming machine entitlements allowed in NSW by more than 3,000. In addition, a ban on all external gambling-related signage came into effect on 1 September.

Alongside all this, the new, independent panel has been overseeing reform in the state. The panel includes harm minimisation advocates, industry representatives, academics, law enforcement officials and cybersecurity experts.

Higher tax for land-based casinos

Other measures mooted in recent months include a rise in land-based casino tax. Set out by the state’s previous government, the original proposal included raising the non-rebated duty rate from 17.91% to 20.25%. Rebate duty rate would also increase from 10.00% to 12.50%. 

In addition, poker machine duty rate would switch from a flat 20.91% rate to a tiered system. This ranged from a 0% rate on machines making under $2,666 a month, up to 60.67% for machines with over $12,000 monthly revenue.

The new administration said it would follow up with these plans after the parliamentary winter recess.

The NSW government also repeated calls for operators to ensure adverts include responsible gambling messages. Two undisclosed brands were flagged for non-compliance in June.

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