Gambling Reforms Set to be a Key Issue in Upcoming Australian Election

As residents of Australia’s most populous state gear up to head the polls at the end of the month, a number of key issues have emerged in the 2023 election campaigning so far.

However, whilst big-ticket topics such as the rising cost of living, issues relating to housing, the privatisation of government services, and the environment have all drawn their fair share of coverage, other ostensibly more niche topics have also come to the fore over the course of this year’s NSW election campaigning.


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One of these topics surrounds certain gambling reforms that have been proposed by various New South Wales policy makers, which seek to place restrictions on an industry that has continued to thrive over the last number of years.

But what exactly are these reforms and why have they proved to be such a contentious issue between the major parties in the New South Wales election?

Gambling in New South Wales: what’s the background?

As is the case in other jurisdictions such as Canada and the United States, gambling in Australia is largely regulated at the state level.

In New South Wales, this is managed primarily by the Liquor and Gaming New South Wales (L&GNSW) board, which sit within the Hospitality and Racing group in the New South Wales Department of Investment and Trade. This body has the responsibility for creating policies, licensing matters, and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations for the industry as a whole.

Separately, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is an independent statutory decision maker that is responsible for various issues and functions related to casino, liquor, registered club, and gaming machine matters. Some of the ILGA’s licensing functions are delegated to the L&GNSW.

In addition to these provincial regulations, there are also some regulations in place at the federal level. These are put in place by the Federal Government under the Australian Constitution, which seek to regulate various issues related to money and trade between the States and Territories.

For example, the Federal Government has enacted legislation that regulates interactive gambling, as well as anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations. It has also put in place consumer and competition protection laws. Additionally, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regulates online and interactive gambling.

With this patchwork of rules and regulations in mind, however, what are the issues at play in the 2023 New South Wales election?

Gambling and the 2023 New South Wales election: what are the issues?

One of the main issues in the 2023 NSW elections is an initiative by Dominic Perrottet—the Premier of New South Wales—to introduce cashless gaming cards on poker machines across the state.

Despite resistance coming both from within his cabinet and the industry, Perrottet unveiled a $344 million plan to make cashless gaming mandatory in the state by 2028, with an initial rollout starting from 2024 onwards. This would also allow gamblers in the state to set spending limits that could only be changed once a week, with this move targeting the small number of problem gamblers in the state.

However, these planned reforms struggled to gain momentum. Labor outright refused to back the policy and instead put forward their own suggestion to trial the new technology on 500 machines across the state. Additionally, Labor also proposed appointing a panel to oversee the trial and to make recommendations based on the feedback.

Labor also put forward several other reform suggestions, including a ban on donations from pubs and clubs, a ban on ‘VIP lounge’ advertisements outside pubs and clubs, and reduced cash input limits on newer poker machines.

With all this said, despite these potential challenges, Giuseppe Faraone of remains broadly positive about what the future holds for the industry – “…in particular, if the election swings in favour of the Labor party, we might see a notably more modest and gradual set of reforms put in place for the sector as a whole.” he stated.

But how does the election look like it might play out?

What might the future hold?

Although there is still some time to go before New South Wales residents head to the polls, some pollsters have already predicted a clean sweep for the Labor party. And whilst this is in no way set in stone, a positive result for Labor could have a big impact on the future of the gambling sector in New South Wales.

In particular, if Labor do manage to pull off a victory, it could see a more modest reform agenda put back on the table. This is despite the previous coalition government’s commitment under Perrottet to see their agenda pushed through.

However, given the unpredictability of these elections in recent years, exactly how the election results might play remains to be seen!

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