All external signage for pub and club poker rooms, including ‘VIP Lounge’ signs, will be banned across NSW from September, in line with the NSW Labor government’s pre-election commitment to reduce problem gambling.
(Image and sign: SWS Signage)
“The NSW Government is taking action to deliver on a key election commitment to reduce problem gambling, by moving to ban external signage (e.g., VIP Lounge) from pubs and clubs across the state by 1 September 2023,” said a statement from the office of NSW Minister for Gaming and Racing, David Harris.
The government’s action on VIP signage comes after introducing legislation in the first sitting week of the new parliament to ban clubs with pokies from donating to NSW political parties.
Pubs and clubs will be formally notified from this week that all external gambling-related signs, including fixed unilluminated awning signs to digital video displays, will need to be removed, altered, or concealed before 1 September 2023.
Venue operators have three months to remove all gaming related signage or face hefty fines up to $11,000 per offence.
‘Where venues can demonstrate delays in removing their signage that are outside of their control, they will be afforded a further 3 months to comply. Following this period, a zero-tolerance approach will be adopted,” the statement said.
“Names such as VIP Room/VIP Lounge, Golden Room/Lounge, Players’ Room/Lounge Prosperity Room/Lounge will be among names banned as well as images of dragons, coins or lightning motifs.
“The expectations for removal of signs will be applied in a staged manner, to afford venues the time to remove, switch off, conceal or otherwise change both static and electronic signage.
“The government will work with industry associations and venues across NSW during the transition period. The maximum penalty attributable for those who fail to remove their signs and breach the Act is 100 penalty units, or $11,000, per offence.”
Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said: “The NSW government is committed to introducing important gambling harm-minimisation measures.
“The facades of pubs and clubs across the state are littered with signs such as ‘VIP lounge’ to alert those walking or driving by that they have gaming machines. Some of these signs are extremely prominent, can be seen by children and members of the community who are at risk of gambling harm.
“While there are already laws in place that prohibit gaming-related signage, venue operators have circumvented these by advertising ‘VIP Lounges.’ We are putting an end to this loophole for the health and wellbeing of our communities.”
Independent Member for Murray Helen Dalton described the signage ban as “a very, very small step forward."
Dalton wants a cashless gaming card introduced immediately. “Poker machines are designed to addict,” she said. “We need to focus on the machines not just the signs that tell you about the machines. I will support the government’s ban on this kind of signage but it is a very, very small step and can’t distract us from the real issue.”