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Compliance Blitz Finds 99% of Pubs and Clubs Inspected in NSW Free of Outdoor Gambling Signage

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A month-long compliance blitz has found nearly 99% of pubs and clubs inspected in NSW are now free of external gambling-related signage, as the Minns Government begins its statewide reform on gaming room advertising.

During the compliance programme, Liquor and Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) inspected over 1100 venues across 35 metropolitan and 8 regional Local Government Areas (LGAs). This represents just over 50% of all venues in NSW with an entitlement to hold gaming machines.

These inspections revealed 16 venues with prohibited external signage, which L&GNSW is investigating. This represents an overall compliance rate of almost 99%.

This signage has been found to be triggering for those with gambling-related issues and were banned from 1 September 2023.

L&GNSW has directly communicated with industry on the changes, first announced in May, including issuing a compliance position paper and several communications on its website and to venues in the months and weeks leading up to the ban which came into place on 1 September.

Inspectors are currently assessing the instances of prohibited signage identified during the blitz, to determine the cause of delay in removing the signage. Those venues which are not able to produce clear evidence that the delays were caused by factors outside of their control will be fined.

L&GNSW Inspectors also identified some operators who have put in place signage in what appears to be an attempt to circumvent the restrictions. L&GNSW is investigating this signage and will determine whether further action, including enforcement or administrative action needs to be taken.

L&GNSW has clearly signalled those venues with existing non-compliant signage, or new signage that attempts to circumvent the restrictions in the legislation, will face escalated enforcement action, with a zero-tolerance approach from 1 December 2023. Failure to comply with these requirements carries penalties of up to $11,000, per offence.

Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said: “Removing this signage for pubs and clubs is just one part of our commitment to reducing gambling harm in our community and I thank licensees and industry bodies for getting on board.

“We have been working positively and proactively with industry associations and venues across the state to educate, inform and support them through this process and ensure this high level of compliance.

“We welcome the positive impact this campaign has had on the exteriors of licensed venues which now solely feature advertisements for a diverse range of offerings such as food and beverage specials, live music and entertainment instead of signs designed to advertise the presence of gaming machines. It makes a noticeable difference to the amenity of our cities and suburbs.

“It’s great to see industry and government working together to prevent and reduce gambling harm in the community and we will continue to do so.”

Australia

ACMA Reveals Illegal Gambling Crackdown Results

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) revealed the outcome of a crackdown on illegal online gambling services operating around the time of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The report published shows that 200 offshore services were reviewed in the lead-up to and during the event. Of those services, 21 were investigated as they appeared to be directly targeting Australians. As a result, 18 services were found to be operating in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.

Following notification of the ACMA’s findings, three of those services withdrew from the Australian market, while the remaining 15 services had their websites blocked by internet service providers at the request of the ACMA.

ACMA authority member and online gambling lead Carolyn Lidgerwood said the sites were unlicensed to provide wagering services in Australia and in some cases also offered interactive gambling services such as online casinos and slots or online in-play betting, which are all banned in Australia.

“Illegal gambling operations often take advantage of high-profile sporting events to push their services onto fans. These sites also offer none of the consumer protections that apply to licensed wagering services in Australia. Using these sites is more than a gamble as you have no rights and even if you win, you may never see the money,” Ms Lidgerwood said.

Since 2019, the ACMA has been asking internet service providers to block gambling websites found to be operating in breach of Australian interactive gambling laws. Over that time, more than 900 illegal gambling and affiliate websites have been blocked.

More than 220 illegal services have also pulled out of the Australian market since the ACMA started enforcing illegal offshore gambling rules.

Minimising gambling harm is a current ACMA compliance priority and Australians can check on the ACMA’s online register to see if a wagering service is licensed to operate in Australia.

More information about online gambling is available on the ACMA’s website, including information on how to protect yourself from illegal gambling operators and instructions on how to make a complaint about an illegal site.

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Australia

SkyCity Appoints Jason Walbridge as Chief Executive Officer

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SkyCity Entertainment Group Limited has appointed Jason Walbridge as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Jason has more than two decades of senior executive public company experience in the global land-based and online gaming industries. He is currently a Strategic Advisor to global gaming and technology company Aristocrat Leisure Limited on its proposed acquisition of NeoGames S.A, and Executive Chairman of National Entertainment Network LLC, the largest amusement route operator in the US. He has been appointed to the role after an extensive international search.

SkyCity Board Chair Julian Cook said: “The Board is delighted to announce Jason’s appointment as CEO of SkyCity, and we are looking forward to the valuable contribution Jason will make to the business. Jason has extensive global experience in the land-based and online gaming industries, which will position him well to lead SkyCity through its next phases.”

Mr Walbridge said: “It will be a privilege to lead SkyCity, and I am excited to be joining the business at this time as SkyCity looks to pursue the many opportunities ahead of it.”

Mr Walbridge is expected to start in early July 2024, following his move back to New Zealand.

Prior to his current roles, Mr Walbridge held roles with the online gaming supplier NYX Gaming Group Limited and its acquirer Light & Wonder Inc, and before that he spent 18 years with Aristocrat Leisure Limited where he held executive leadership roles in New Zealand and the US. Previously, he held senior roles within consulting, including with Ernst & Young, and was an Officer in the New Zealand Defence Force. Mr Walbridge holds an MBA in International Management from the Auckland Institute of Studies.

Mr Cook confirmed that Callum Mallett will continue as Interim Chief Executive Officer until Mr Walbridge’s commencement date.

“I’d like to thank Callum for his continued leadership and his support during this period,” Mr Cook said.

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Australia

VGCCC Fines BlueBet AU$50,000 for Gambling Advertising Breaches

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BlueBet has been fined AU$50,000 by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) for breaching gambling advertising regulations.

The company was found guilty of 43 charges related to displaying gambling advertisements on or above public roads, contravening the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.

The charges stemmed from an investigation initiated by VGCCC, following a complaint from a member of the public. The breaches occurred over a two-week period in August and September 2022, with BlueBet’s gambling advertisements appearing on digital billboards at various locations, including Point Cook, Laverton, Rockbank and Ravenhall.

Magistrate Greg Thomas, overseeing the case, expressed scepticism about BlueBet’s defence that it was unaware of the breaches, given the strategic placement of the billboards to target males aged 15-54 years old. While no conviction was recorded, Magistrate Thomas noted the high degree of negligence exhibited by BlueBet.

VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt AM said: “Gambling advertising has no place on public roads where it is readily visible to children and other vulnerable groups. These places are especially difficult to avoid as part of day-to-day activities. This decision sends a clear message to wagering providers that flout these protections for our community.”

Although Magistrate Thomas considered imposing a higher fine and recording a conviction, he took into account BlueBet’s guilty plea, cooperation with VGCCC and measures taken to prevent future breaches. BlueBet has implemented changes to prevent similar incidents and has cooperated with VGCCC throughout the process.

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