NSW Minister Slams ClubsNSW for Thwarting Poker Machine Reforms

ABC reported that Victor Dominello, a senior Liberal minister from New South Wales, has spoken out about the power and impact of ClubsNSW, an influential gambling lobby group that he claims forced him out of his portfolio. 

Dominello Slams ClubsNSW as the ‘Gun Lobby’ of Australia’s Gambling Industry

In an interview for ABC’s Four Corners, Dominello accused the group of being like “the equivalent of the gun lobby in the United States“. The not-for-profit lobby group represents over 1,000 registered clubs across the state, which collectively own and operate more than 64,000 poker machines. 

ClubsNSW has defeated previous attempts at gambling reform and is currently facing its greatest test yet at the NSW election where the introduction of mandatory cashless gambling for poker machines is a central election issue. 

Dominello was responsible for gambling policy when he floated the introduction of a mandatory cashless gambling card for all poker machines in the state in 2020, a reform aimed at addressing problem gambling. It was strongly opposed by ClubsNSW, which claimed it would cost 9,000 jobs and devastate clubs by slashing their revenue by up to 30%. 

Dominello said that ClubsNSW’s view was extremely strident against it, and they showed no willingness to compromise. The clubs’ message found a receptive audience in Dominello’s Coalition colleagues, the Nationals, who feared the reforms would damage clubs in their rural heartlands. When Dominello declined to attend an awards dinner hosted by ClubsNSW, Nationals leader John Barilaro texted him with abusive language.

Growing Calls for Inquiry into Lobby Group’s Influence Over NSW Governments

According to Victor Dominello, ClubsNSW exhibited an excessive level of confidence in its influence in New South Wales and took pride in its achievement of thwarting poker machine reforms proposed by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard ten years ago.

Dominello was eventually stripped of his gaming portfolio by Premier Dominic Perrottet, and the portfolio was handed over to the Nationa mnl168 ls. The succession of agreements ClubsNSW has struck before elections over the past decade has also eroded faith in democracy. 

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These documents, formally known as Memoranda of Understanding, bind incoming coalition governments to detailed pledges about the regulatory environment that clubs will operate in over the ensuing four years, including no new increases to poker machine tax rates. 

The agreements were signed by then-opposition leader Barry O’Farrell in 2010, his successor as premier, Mike Baird, in 2014, and premier Gladys Berejiklian in 2018. The calls for an inquiry into the influence of the lobby group over governments are growing louder, and Dominello hopes that the next term of government will address the issue for the sake of democracy.