Big change coming to pokies room

·3-min read
VIP signage for pokie rooms will be banned in NSW from September 1, 2023. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

All VIP signage for poker rooms will be banned across NSW from September 1, with the government warning of a zero-tolerance approach for venues who don’t comply.

Venues will be formally notified next week and will not be allowed to display names including VIP room, VIP lounge, golden room/lounge, players’ room/lounge prosperity room/lounge, as well as images including dragons, coins or lightning.

Pubs and clubs who don’t comply after the cut off will be slapped with a $11,000 fine.

Operators who can prove they are unable meet the September 1 deadline due to reasons outside their control will get a further three-month extension.

Pubs and clubs have been given until September 1 to remove all external signage advertising pokies rooms. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said the removal of these “extremely prominent” signs would prevent children and people at risk of gambling harm from seeing them.

“The facades of pubs and clubs across the state are littered with signs such as ‘VIP lounge’ to alert those walking or driving by that they have gaming machines,” he said.

“While there are already laws in place that prohibit gaming-related signage, venue operators have circumvented these by advertising ‘VIP lounges’. We are putting an end to this loophole for the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

A position paper has also been developed by Liquor & Gaming NSW that will detail the transition period, with the government promising to work with industry associations and venues while the new laws are being implemented.

Removing signage from poker rooms in clubs and pubs is one part of NSW Labor’s gambling reforms. NSW Premier Chris Minns has also promised a cashless trial on 500 machines, plus a statewide exclusion register and third-party exclusion options, where loved ones of a problem gambler could apply for them to be banned from venues.

The government will also reduce poker machine cash input limits from $5000 to $500 and invest $100m in harm minimisation programs.

The NSW government has committed to a cashless gaming trial on 500 machines. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

However, some argue the measures don’t go far enough.

Wesley Mission chief executive Stu Cameron called on the Minns government to consider a fully cashless system, as recommended by the NSW Crime Commission’s report on money laundering.

The former Liberal government committed to making all poker machines cashless by 2028 had they won another term of government.

A recent survey of 1000 NSW residents found 70 per cent of respondents didn’t believe the government was doing enough about poker machines and gambling reform.

“Community concern about the level of harm caused by poker machines remains very high,” Rev Cameron said.

“One in three people told us they knew a colleague, friend or family member who has been harmed by playing poker machines”.

Deputy Premier and Education Minister Prue Car said the government will continue to community with NSW residents about the government’s gambling reform plans.

“Obviously today‘s announcement about the signage, the VIP lounge signage, that is just part of that plan, but we’ll be communicating to the people of New South Wales as we make progress along the plan that they endorsed at the election,” she said.

She said Labor would continue to deliver the plan they took to the election and had a “mandate to deliver on those commitments”.

“We have a mandate to deliver to deal with proper gambling in NSW on behalf of the people of this state where we are at the cashless gaming trial.”