Photography: Paul Jeffers/AAP
New South Wales Labor leader Chris Minns has refused to back a push to introduce a cashless gambling card in the state, despite pressure from MPs on all benches trying to force the government’s hand to coalition on the proposal.
After the NSW Crime Commission released a long-awaited report this week calling for the introduction of the card and finding that billions of dollars of ‘dirty’ money is gambled each year in pubs and clubs, the two main parties are under pressure over a measure fiercely opposed by the state’s gaming lobby.
The report found that ‘large sums’ of the proceeds of crime are gambled by criminals in pubs and clubs across NSW, ‘rewarding and perpetuating crime in the community’.
Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has agreed to consider the proposal.
Related: Billions of ‘dirty’ money entering NSW slots should be handled by cashless gaming card, crime commission says
But he and Minns said they would consult closely with the industry about the game card. ClubsNSW previously claimed the technology would cost thousands of jobs and $1.8 billion to deploy, but only provided no evidence for this claim.
Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich has sought to force the hand of major parties by introducing amendments to a bill to formalize the use of facial recognition technology in clubs and pubs.
On Friday, Minns declined to support the Greenwich Amendments.
“The Crime Commission’s report called for far-reaching reforms, it was not a tinkering around the edges,” he said.
“Obviously there are implications as a result of these reforms. But we are open-minded about it.
“But given its complexity, we have to make sure and look at what people put on the table before I give general support to a proposal that I haven’t seen.”
Minns pointed to the lobby’s claim that the proposal would be prohibitively expensive and said there was “obviously a disagreement” between ClubsNSW and the commission.
“It is difficult for the New South Wales opposition to navigate through this difference of opinion or this difference of fact.”
The cashless gaming card was recommended by Patricia Bergin, after her Crown Casino investigation, as a harm minimization tool for problem gamblers and as a way to combat criminal money laundering in the industry.
He is backed by anti-gambling groups and was backed by former gambling minister Victor Dominello before being removed from the portfolio after ClubsNSW lobbied against the proposal.
But this week’s Crime Commission report on money laundering in clubs and pubs said the card would help combat “a $95 billion-a-year information black hole”.
The club lobby had previously claimed that facial recognition technology was also prohibitively expensive and ineffective, but is now defending its use as a harm reduction measure and anti-money laundering tool.
But Greenwich criticized both major parties for “flattering” the club lobby.
‘This is not a new proposal, it is backed by the NSW Crime Commission, and I think the electorate wants Labor to have bold and different policies and not just sit on the fence’ , did he declare.
“It’s about that [both parties] consult with organizations that derive financial benefit from inaction, that cause harm to the game and want to turn a blind eye to the money laundering that occurs in clubs and pubs.
“It’s the equivalent of developing your drinking and driving policies by consulting the alcohol industry.”
Related: ClubsNSW suggests using facial recognition could go beyond identifying problem gamblers
It comes as the government ruled out allowing clubs to use facial recognition technology to impose bans on customers kicked out of clubs for being too drunk or disorderly.
This week the Guardian reported that ClubsNSW refused to rule out extending the use of the controversial technology, after initially saying last week that it would only be used to enforce self-exclusions made by problem gamblers. .
The Department of Alcohol and Gaming said it was still drafting guidelines on the use of the technology, but it would only be used to track people who were “excluded from gambling, either by themselves , either by their family and friends, or by persons convicted or suspected of serious crimes”.
“This would not include one-time offenses such as drunkenness or quarreling on club premises,” a spokesperson said.