Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state government has moved to ban political donations from clubs that operate slot machines or other gambling services.
The amendment to the Electoral Funding Act 2018 would ban donations from clubs with slot machines and “extend the prohibited donors definition to include registered clubs if the business undertaken by the club includes wagering, betting or other gambling, regardless of their profit-making status”, according to a government statement on Thursday (May 11).
The change would mark another material constraint on the power of the gambling industry in the state, and Australia in general, after years of backlash over industry misconduct and political influence.
The “profit-making status” provision of the amendment is also crucial given that some of the state’s clubs boasting significant slots revenue are not-for-profit organisations.
Newly-elected NSW Premier Chris Minns, who responsible gambling advocates attacked during the election campaign for not committing to cashless gaming reforms, said the amendment “closes a political loophole”.
“It is common sense that, if other gambling entities are banned from making political donations, it should apply to all clubs,” he said.
“I hope we can attract support from across the parliament for this overdue reform.
“This bill is an important integrity measure to strengthen the political donation system in our state.”
The amendment amounts to two inserts, with the first adding registered clubs to the list of banned donors, along with club secretaries, club board members and their spouses.
The second insert clarifies that clubs can continue to be used as locations for election-related meetings and other activity or for the political activity of an elected member of parliament.
In his speech to parliament on Thursday, special minister of state John Graham said the amendment fulfils an election commitment to sever gambling industry donations to all political parties after his Labor party did the same while in opposition.
“It is clear that there is a perception amongst the community that these donations have an influence on government decision making,” Graham said. “I do not think anyone in the [parliamentary] Chamber would dispute that community fear.
“The liquor and gambling industry is, properly, highly regulated. Its financial position is dependent on government policy and decision making. That is one of the reasons why we need to pay close attention to that community perception.”
The tabled amendment is the latest indication that Australia’s once intimidating and untouchable pubs and clubs lobbying network has entered a period of declining influence.
The CEO of ClubsNSW, then one of the nation’s most powerful and ruthless lobby groups, was forced to resign in January during the NSW election campaign after he referred to former Premier Dominic Perrottet as having a “conservative Catholic gut” for pledging the introduction of mandatory cashless gaming.
A former gaming minister in Perrottet's government targeted by the organisation has also called for ClubsNSW to be probed over alleged damage to democratic institutions.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has spoken out ahead of the findings of a federal parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm, calling sports-betting advertising “annoying”.
Albanese told the Guardian newspaper on Sunday that he would not “pre-empt” the committee’s review on sports-betting ads during match broadcasts.
“But on a personal level, I find them annoying,” he said.
Albanese’s comment follows similar criticism of ubiquitous online gambling advertising from federal opposition leader Peter Dutton, who said last week that restrictions on such ads should be extended to the entirety of matches and for an hour on either side.