Gambling

No longer a “VIP” – Don’t forget to remove ALL gambling signage

Ryan Nguyen ||

Since the introduction of the Gaming Machines Act (the Act), venues have removed signages that directly advertised gaming machines. Words, symbols, or visual representations of ‘pokies’, ‘gaming room’ or similar were removed. However, to circumvent these laws, venue operators monopolised using terms such as ‘VIP Lounge’ and ‘Dragon Den’. Similar symbols or visual representations were adopted.

VIP revoked?

In May 2023, Liquor & Gaming NSW announced that they would enforce the literal meaning of s 44 of the Act. This means hotels and clubs must not display any signs directly or indirectly related to gambling. That includes, for example, using or representing a ‘VIP lounge’, coins, dragons or terracotta warriors.

Section 44(1) reads:

A hotelier or club must not display or cause to be displayed any gambling-related sign –

(a)  anywhere outside or in the vicinity of the hotel or the premises of the club, or

(b) anywhere inside the hotel or the premises of the club so that it can be seen from outside the hotel or the premises of the club. 

Section 44(6) defines ‘gambling-related sign’ as follows:

A gambling-related sign means any sign (whether consisting of words, symbols, pictures or any other thing) –

(a) that draws attention to, or can reasonably be taken to draw attention to, the availability of approved gaming machines in a hotel or on the premises of a club, or

(b) that uses a term or expression frequently associated with gambling, or

(c) that relates to a gambling franchise or gambling business.

The three stages and dates

Liquor & Gaming NSW has provided venues with three key stages/dates:

Stage 1: Get Informed

May 2023 to 31 August 2023

A transitioning period of venue operators.

It is recommended to take appropriate actions to remove all external gaming signage.

There will be no enforcement action.

Stage 2: Get ready

1 September 2023 to 31 November 2023

Venue operators are required to take ‘reasonable steps’ to remove external gaming signage.

Compliance action will be taken if no reasonable steps have been taken.

Stage 3: VIP revoked

From 1 December 2023

Strict enforcement with zero tolerance.

What can venue operators do now?

With Liquor & Gaming NSW’s strict approach in enforcing the literal meaning of s 44 of the Act, venue operators are left with two options:

  1. Remove all gambling-related signages, or
  2. Be faced with hefty fines and enforcement undertakings.

It is also not recommended for venue operators to attempt to circumvent these laws by introducing some other word, symbol, or visual imaging. This is all part of the NSW Government’s election commitment to ban all external gambling signage.

Don’t forget about the other gaming reforms! 

The “removal of all external gambling signage is just one part of the NSW Government’s broader gaming reform to reduce harm [which includes]:

  • Reducing the cash input limit from $5,000 to $500 for all new electronic gaming machines from 1 July 2023.
  • Capping the number of gaming machine entitlements in circulation.
  • Banning political donations from clubs involved in gaming.
  • Introducing Responsible Gaming Officers at venues with more than 20 machines.
  • Expanding a third-party exclusion register to the whole state.
  • Establishing an independent panel of expert stakeholders, including industry, harm minimisation organisations, academics, law enforcement, cyber security and the union movement to oversee the cashless gaming trial and recommend an implementation roadmap for gaming reforms.” (Source)

For more information on your obligations under the NSW Government’s gaming reforms, please contact Coleman Greig’s Commercial Advice team.

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