ClubsNSW Engaged With Government "More Than Any Other Entity" In Pandemic's First Eight Months

Updated: Oct 10

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 "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."

A blurred and darkened image of a row of poker machines, with the ClubsNSW logo foregrounded

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

In November of 2015, ClubsNSW announced that they had dropped their defamation case against Independent MP, 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”.

Sources & Further Reading,16746

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