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Australia – New South Wales operators warned that gambling harm breaches will lead to prosecution

By - 23 January 2024

Licensed venues in New South Wales are being warned to comply with important gaming harm minimisation measures or face enforcement action, after the licensee of an inner Sydney venue was found guilty under the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019, after placing an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) in an ATM room attached to its gaming room.

The licensee of Vbar on Liverpool St in Sydney’s CBD was ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs in the amount of $5,500 by the Local Court, after inspectors from Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) found the ATM, and the Magistrate determined it was in the same part of the hotel as gaming machines were located.

Large text reading ATM was also displayed across the door to this room, on the gaming room side.

This decision comes following an escalation in enforcement response by L&GNSW in 2023, which has seen 16 penalty notices issued and 13 prosecutions commenced for ATM location breaches.

L&GNSW Executive Director Regulatory Operations Jane Lin said the position of the ATM was a clear breach of the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019, which stipulates that a licensee must not permit a cash dispensing facility to be located in a part of a hotel or a club premises in which approved gaming machines are located.

The Magistrate supported L&GNSW’s interpretation that the clause was not confined to just a gaming room, and that the requirement in the regulation applies to ‘a part’ of the hotel.

Her Honour stated in her judgment that the legislative requirement “is intentionally to be read as ‘part [of the hotel]’ and that if the legislation was referring to only the gaming room “it would say that”.

“ATMs must be located in a part of the venue completely separate to gaming rooms or any other part of a venue where gaming machines are located, even if the internal design or fit-out of the room acts to screen the ATM,” Ms Lin said.

“This is important because having such ready access to cash withdrawals can make it easier for gamblers to lose track of what they are spending, while locating ATMs further away from gaming machines can encourage them to have a break in play.”

“These requirements are clearly outlined in the Gaming Machines Regulation 2019 and have been further communicated to licensees in an effort to prevent and minimise gambling harm.”

“L&GNSW has a zero-tolerance approach for venue operators who do not comply with fundamental gaming harm minimisation measures.”

L&GNSW is focusing on the placement of ATMs and gambling harm minimisation measures involving withdrawals from credit cards, as part of a targeted compliance campaign over the summer months.

Inspectors have conducted 437 inspections at high-risk hotels and clubs across more than 30 LGAs since 1 December 2023 and will continue to closely monitor these gaming venues.

As well as the placement of ATMs in gaming rooms, inspectors are targeting the availability of credit from ATMs on the premises of a venue, the visibility of internal gaming-related signage (e.g. ‘VIP lounge’ ) from outside the venue, hotel layouts that compel patrons to pass through a gaming room to access another area (or service) of the venue, ensuring that self-exclusion signage is present in gaming rooms, minors in gaming rooms or using gaming machines or electronic betting terminals and compliance with Gaming Plans of Management

Ms Lin said venues that fail to comply with harm minimisation requirements can expect an enforcement response in the form of large fines, potential disciplinary action, or the issue of statutory directions to require that changes be made at a venue.

“Most venues in NSW are complying with these measures but there are still too many that don’t take the necessary steps to protect their patrons from gambling harm,” Ms Lin said. “Any operators who attempt to circumvent the legislation will be met with a strong enforcement response.” 

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