NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is at odds with his Liberal colleagues over the possible introduction of cashless gaming cards as a stoush brews in the NSW Cabinet.
A report commissioned by NSW’s Independent Gaming and Liquor Authority (ILGA) this week recommended the cards – which could help combat problem gambling and money laundering – be introduced.
The report was the result of an 18-month inquiry into gambling giant Crown Resorts, which had been hoping to open its new casino in Sydney, which has already been built at Barangaroo.
However, those plans are on ice after Commissioner Patricia Bergin found the company was unsuitable in its current form to hold the licence.
NSW Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello said the state government would consider the report’s recommendations.
But Mr Barilaro said he would not support the cards, and that it was “not the time to strangle pubs and clubs with red tape”.
The last time Mr Barilaro publicly clashed with his Liberal colleagues was over koala protection policies which briefly brought the NSW Government to the brink last year.
In September he threatened to blow up the Coalition and take the Nationals to the cross-bench amid disagreements over the policies.
Now a new spat looms.
“How that plays out – I respect the Cabinet process, we need to consider the findings of Commissioner Bergin,” Mr Dominello said.
“That will go back to Cabinet, no doubt back to the party room.
“We are doing our best to help pubs and clubs because they do a magnificent job in the community but there is that seedy underbelly of cash, poker machines and gaming that Commissioner Bergin has pointed out that needs to be addressed because we cannot turn a blind eye to organised crime.”
Mr Dominello last year proposed reforms that would require punters to register for cashless gaming cards in order to use pokies.
The blueprint is designed to help address problem gambling in NSW.
Mr Dominello said the state government would look at the report’s recommendations in detail, including one of his own proposal’s made last year for a government-issued gambling card for all poker machine players.
In her report, Ms Bergin said Mr Dominello’s proposal would also help address another issue – money laundering by organised criminals.
“The proposal has been the subject of some public debate and is not free from controversy,” she wrote.
“However, it appears that the very significant utility of the card to assist the problem gambler could not be in issue. It is also obvious that it would be a powerful mechanism to assist in combatting money laundering.”
Mr Dominello said money laundering is the life blood for organised crime, and that cash is the common denominator.
“If you have got an industry-based, industry-owned, industry- issued gaming card with appropriate regulatory oversight then in Commissioner Bergin’s words it will have a significant impact in combatting money laundering. You cannot get any stronger than that,” Mr Dominello said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Channel Nine there was room for both a hard-line on money laundering and supporting pubs and clubs.
“What the report has highlighted is that unfortunately there could be issues in the broader community about money laundering and we need to get on top of that and of course we need to support all of the businesses in the process – I think you can do both.”