In January 2023 it was reported that ClubsNSW Chief Executive, Josh Landis, was fired following comments he had made regarding the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, and his intentions to pursue gambling reform due to his "conservative Catholic gut."
Firing of Chief Executive Josh Landis
The ClubsNSW board met and voted to fire the chief executive after calls for his resignation were made by both the NSW opposition leader, Chris Minns, and independent MP, Alex Greenwich. Only four hours after Mr. Landis issued a public apology for his remarks, a spokesperson for ClubsNSW stated that he had been fired:
“ClubsNSW has met today to discuss the comments made by chief executive Josh Landis yesterday...After careful consideration, the board has made the decision to end Mr Landis’ employment with ClubsNSW with immediate effect.”
Less than a week later, ClubsNSW settled their case against gambling reform advocate and whistleblower, Troy Stolz. Roughly a week after Mr. Stolz's case was settled, ClubsNSW dropped their criminal contempt charges against Jordan Shanks. Reports described the legal developments as "further evidence of a changed approach from ClubsNSW following the sacking of its chief executive Josh Landis two weeks ago."
First established in 1920, ClubsNSW describe themselves as "the peak representational body for the NSW club industry." The organisation represents more than 1200 clubs in New South Wales, managing over 70,000 poker machines, and, according to their corporate profile, "makes an important contribution to state and national policy direction, including the development of industry-specific legislation relating to alcohol, gambling, taxation, and industrial relations."
Despite "boasts" regarding community investment, an investigation by Michael West Media revealed that a small proportion, as low as 3% per member, of ClubsNSW's pokies revenue was returned to communities in the form of grants.
ClubsNSW sponsors both sides of politics, with records from the AEC suggesting ClubsNSW had donated nearly $3.5 Million over the past 20 years. In 2020, records indicate that ClubsNSW donated nearly $50,000 to political parties, including $33,000 to the federal Labor Party.
Defamation Lawsuit Against Andrew Wilkie
Mr. Wilkie was sued over what ClubsNSW labelled “false claims and insinuations” from an ABC report which detailed allegations made, but then later retracted, by former Labor MP Peter Garrett. In an interview for the documentary "Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation," Mr. Garrett had described how he was approached by a representative of ClubsNSW prior to the 2004 election and handed an envelope containing “hundreds, if not thousands of dollars," which Mr. Garrett says he handed back. Before the film was screened, Mr. Garret withdrew his claim, stating that the envelope had instead contained a cheque.
In October of 2015, Mr. Wilkie discussed Mr. Garrett's retelling of events in an ABC 7.30 Report, describing the payment as a bribe:
“I mean it has gone from bags of cash being offered to him after he was elected, to a cheque, before he was elected...It just beggars belief and I suppose I’d have to ask him straight: do you really think we’re mugs?”
While no reason was reported as to why the case was dropped, it had been suggested that ClubsNSW was concerned that the legal discovery process would grant Mr. Wilkie access to more sensitive information regarding the organisation.
Engagement with Former-Deputy Premier, John Barilaro
In February 2021, it was revealed that ClubsNSW gained more access to the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, than any other organisation during the first eight months of the pandemic, meeting with government 13 times during those eight months.
This revelation was highlighted amid the wider context of the registered gambling card proposal, which was met with "fierce resistance" from certain members of the NSW government. Then-Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, criticised the proposal, claiming that it was "not the time to strangle pubs and clubs with red tape”.