Moving through Sydney, it’s almost impossible not to notice all the flashing signs on venues promoting VIP lounges or players rooms. But that’s all set to change.
From next week, operators will be formally notified about signage that needs to be removed or concealed before September under the NSW Labor government’s gambling reform package. The legislation will ban terms such as “VIP room”, “lounge”, “golden room” and “prosperity lounge”, as well as common motifs associated with gambling such as dragons and coins.
Failure to remove the signage could result in a fine of up to $11,000 per offence.
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Alongside the rollout of cashless gaming cards, it’s one of the key recommendations to come from last year’s NSW Crime Commission report into money laundering via electronic gaming machines.
The NSW Government’s latest six-monthly gaming machine data shows that clubs pulled in a record $8.1 billion in poker machine profits last year (gamblers in NSW lost $4.6 billion). NSW accounts for half of Australia’s poker machines and has the second highest number of poker machines in the world – only Las Vegas has more.
Odd Culture group CEO James Thorpe has been vocal about the benefits of removing gambling machines from Sydney pubs. Speaking to Broadsheet about the reforms, Thorpe said the signage ban is “a much stronger than anticipated step in the right direction”.
“The announcements made before the election indicated that the Labor government had proposed to simply add ‘VIP lounge’ to the list of banned terms,” he said. “This would only spur on some new creative phrase to refer to the rooms. (Why do you think we call them ‘VIP rooms’ or ‘players lounges’ in the first place?) Banning the notion of referencing the gaming room altogether really solves this problem, so I’m happy to see that is the approach.”
Thorpe holds out hope for a future where gaming machines are removed from all pubs and clubs. While “it might take an election cycle or two … the writing is on the wall. It’s now a matter of when”.