Dominic Perrottet’s Nazi uniform brings tears to the pokies lobby … tears of joy

by Michael West | Jan 13, 2023 | Comment & Analysis, Latest Posts

Dominic Perrottet’s Nazi uniform prank is good news for ClubsNSW and the pokies lobby. The NSW Premier had held firm on a cashless gaming card but now is fighting for his political life. Michael West reports.

The Election looms. One organisation which will not be saddened by the travails of NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is the powerful poker machines lobby ClubsNSW.

Perrottet, now fighting for his political life in the wake of revelations he had dressed up as a Nazi for a 21st birthday party, has been the one premier in many years to stand up to the pokies lobby. He’d refused to sign an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with ClubsNSW pledging not to regulate poker machines for another term of government.

It is a bizarre testament to the power of the clubs peak body that any lobby group can force democratically elected leaders to sign a deal promising not to regulate them. Is there any other industry which achieves this? Is there any other industry which spits so much money in the direction of state coffers?

Despite the longevity of LNP rule in NSW, Perrottet’s stance on pokies – pushing for the introduction of a cashless gaming card to rein in money-laundering and rampant problem gambling in the biggest punting province, bar-none, in the world, had drawn the ire of ClubsNSW.

Edge over Labor gone?

It had lent Perrottet an electoral edge over his Labor rival Chris Minns, simply for the display of political courage; as every man, woman and their dog know the pokies lobby needs to be brought to heel. 

The Nazi get-up is great political theatre, seized gleefully as fodder by the media. But it may blow over. His apology and remorse are credible, the birthday party was 20 years ago. There is a long Anglo tradition of poking fun at Nazis. Not even Perrottet’s political adversaries are claiming he’s a serious Nazi.

Still, it won’t hurt Labor’s chances; and downtown at the Druitt Street Sydney headquarters, ClubsNSW boss Josh Landis and his troops will not be shedding one tear.

Will the debilitation of Dominic Perrottet be their reprieve? They had gone rogue as an organisation, bringing private criminal prosecutions against their adversaries such as whistleblower Troy Stolz, even after the Crime Commission task-force had found the $95 billion pokies trade at NSW clubs and pubs was a haven for criminals, money-launderers.

Gaming the Machine: pokies bosses to sign up politicians Perrottet and Minns for another 4 years

Moreover, it appears to be beyond regulation itself, untouchable, running a profitable business of Keno under the curious corporate umbrella of an employers’ association.

ClubsNSW is an organisation of employers registered under the Industrial Relations Act (NSW) that has the status of a body corporate.

It also controls the ClubKENO company that is entitled to a good-sized portion of the proceeds from this casino-like game: some $14.1m for FY22 down from $17.7m for FY21.

We know this because, despite their best efforts to hide their financial statements, our reporter Callum Foote managed to get a hard copy of the 2022 accounts before he was ejected from the annual meeting late last year.

Despite its official status, ClubsNSW sounds like and acts like a political party. It has taken lobbying to the next level of aggressive activism in pursuit of its members’ interests, which appear to be unfettered profits from gamblers in the suite of its retinue of casinos across the state.

The annual report for 2017 explains that “If clubs must campaign, we must go hard and we must win”. This despite the clear social costs of addiction and massive pokies losses. 

The current slogan on its website is “Gaming Reform – There is a Wrong Way and a Right Way”. In promoting Clubs is encouraging us to become agitated enough to email our local MP to oppose cashless gaming cards. Why?

Channelling the NRA

Because the state is trying to treat you like a criminal, that’s the line, indignation. it is empowering government bureaucrats to monitor your spending, it is trying to punish recreational punters by banning cash, seeking to impose costs on clubs which reduces community support and scope for clubs to fund community activities.

The impassioned cries for freedom are redolent of another famous lobby group in another land, the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the US with its crusade to protect rights and suggest citizens are under attack from the deep left or the dark state or whatever.

ClubsNSW makes it clear that cashless gaming cards are the wrong way for gaming reform, but they are less forthcoming about the right way. Apparently, regulation unsanctioned by ClubsNSW is the wrong way and the right way is not doing anything the wrong way, which is equivalent to doing nothing.

The right way, the wrong way and the Minns way

If the right way is doing nothing then that is where Labor leader Chris Minns is stuck. Well, maybe stuck doing almost nothing, or just enough to give the appearance that he might do something. According to the SMH (after months of ducking for cover on cashless gaming cards):

“NSW Labor leader Chris Minns says he is prepared to reform the state’s lucrative gambling sector but only after the impact on the industry is fully calculated, despite a poll indicating the vast majority of voters want decisive action.

To put Minns’ reluctance in context, his position is not much different to Gladys Berejiklian or any previous Labor or Liberal leaders for that matter. And he is caught to the extent that trade union clubs operate poker machines for large profits. Labor links to the sector are substantial. A board member of ClubsNSW, Dr Christina Curry, doubles as the Labor mayor of Bayside Council.

It is just that on this one big issue for NSW voters, he has looked weak versus Perrottet so the Nazi uniform scandal has come, politically, at a good time as the people of NSW consider their options for the election in March.

Dragging a dying man & Jordan Shanks through the courts

Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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