In an effort to fulfill an election promise aimed at reducing problem gambling, Australia's New South Wales (NSW) Government is taking action to ban external signage associated with gambling from pubs and clubs across the state. While existing laws already prohibit gambling-related signage, venue operators have circumvented these restrictions by advertising what they call "VIP Lounges."
By September 1, 2023, all gambling-related signage, including names such as "VIP Room" or "VIP Lounge," as well as images of dragons, coins, or lightning motifs, will need to be removed, altered, or concealed.
The move comes after the introduction of legislation during the first sitting week of the new parliament that prohibits clubs with poker machines from donating to political parties in NSW. The intention behind these measures is to curb the influence of gambling-related activities on politics and address the significant issue of problem gambling in the state.
Formal notifications will be sent to pubs and clubs starting next week, outlining the requirement to remove all external gambling-related signs. These signs range from fixed unilluminated awning signs to digital video displays.
Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) has prepared a position paper that outlines the enforcement approach and transition period for this ban. Venue operators will have three months to eliminate all gaming-related signage. However, for venues facing delays in removing their signage due to circumstances beyond their control, an additional three-month period will be granted for compliance.
After this grace period, a zero-tolerance approach will be implemented, and penalties will be enforced for non-compliance. The government is expected to collaborate with industry associations and venues throughout NSW during the transition period to provide guidance and support.
David Harris, Minister for Gaming and Racing, said the government is committed to introducing effective measures to minimize gambling-related harm. He highlighted the prevalence of gambling-related signs such as "VIP lounge" on the facades of pubs and clubs across the state, which serve as signals to passersby that gambling machines are available.
"Some of these signs are extremely prominent, can be seen by children and members of the community who are at risk of gambling harm," Minister Harris stated. The government aims to close the existing loophole in gambling advertising at pubs to safeguard the health and well-being of communities.
Failure to comply with the ban and breach of the Act will result in penalties. The maximum penalty for failing to remove signs is 100 penalty units or $11,000 per offense.