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Why reducing gambling harm is imperative

In what is expected to be one of the tightest NSW state election races in decades, poker machine reform is proving a key issue for both the Liberal/National coalition and Labor parties, as they seek to address significant community sentiment demanding real reform of the poker machine industry.

When it comes to gambling and the use of poker machines, Australia is home to a shameful array of statistics, particularly in NSW.

Wesley Mission’s analysis of Liquor and Gaming NSW’s data from July to September 2022 revealed people across NSW lost $2.18 billion to poker machines in pubs and clubs in just 92 days.

Research shows poker machine losses hit lower socio-economic areas the hardest. A high percentage of losses come from lower-income earners. The most disadvantaged people from the most disadvantaged areas of NSW.

Wesley Mission knows all too well the impact of gambling harm in NSW. We see the immense hardship faced by individuals and families affected by problem gambling and the ripple effect of gambling harm across communities.

Wesley Mission was the first to deliver gambling counselling services in Australia. So it’s in our DNA to fight for change with our “Put pokies in their place” campaign.

The truth is pubs and clubs haven’t effectively or consistently enforced self-exclusion in 20 years.

The recent compliance audit by Liquor and Gaming found “around one in five venues is potentially in breach of gaming laws aimed at preventing or reducing gambling harm”. This is an industry where venues have unlawfully moved ATMs into gambling rooms – deliberately creating conditions that enable money launderers and which leads to greater harm for patrons.

The NSW Crime Commission’s 2022 Project Islington inquiry on the poker machine industry revealed the extent to which the proceeds of crime were being gambled through poker machines in NSW pubs and clubs including for money laundering.

The inquiry found $95 billion was gambled through poker machines for the year ending June 2021, equal to a quarter of all household expenditure for the same period. A significant amount of that money put through poker machines is the proceeds of crime, or “dirty money”.

Pubs and clubs have consistently demonstrated they are unwilling to meaningfully enforce self-exclusion, or address money laundering.

This is why Wesley Mission have called on whoever wins power at the next election to establish a single, state-wide self-exclusion register funded by gambling taxation revenue, managed independently from the gambling industry – overseen by an appropriate independent statutory body.

We should no longer allow an industry which has failed to uphold Responsible Conduct of Gambling provisions, and not complied with anti-money laundering guidelines, to evade external regulation based on independent research and community expectation.

It is not appropriate for an industry that profits from a business model that causes gambling harm to be responsible for the self-exclusion system.

A mandatory, universal cashless card will have everything necessary to provide an effective independent state-wide, self-exclusion system, at the same time preventing money laundering and significantly reducing gambling harm.

The only thing stopping NSW from introducing such a card is political will and moral courage.

The technology is there, the community appetite and the need are very much there.

We cannot allow the gambling industry to dictate terms because they will always put profit before people. It’s time to put pokies in their place.

Wesley Mission / Put pokies in their place

In the lead-up to the March 2023 NSW Election, Wesley Mission and a broad-based coalition of concerned supporters will campaign on five key reform measures, based on our analysis of the current political landscape.

NSW Liberal / National Coalition – Dominic Perrottet

The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government plan to make every poker machine cashless by December 31, 2028, in response to the NSW Crime Commission’s report into money laundering in electronic gaming machines.

NSW Labor – Chris Minns

The NSW Labor government plan to introduce a mandatory 12-month cashless gaming trial in New South Wales, which will begin on July 1, 2023.

The trial will include at least 500 machines, with a mix of pubs and clubs across metro areas of highest use, other metro areas, and regional areas. It will look at different cashless technologies, what infrastructure investments are required, including cost, the impact on employment and industry and the impacts on problem gambling, and options to further reduce problem gambling.


The Rev. Stu Cameron is CEO and Superintendent of Wesley Mission

Support for anyone affected by gambling – see



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