Victorians back pokies crackdown

Victorians back pokies crackdown
Victorians back pokies crackdown

The majority of Victorians support mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play on all Victorian poker machines which the Andrews government has committed to without announcing when it will introduce the reforms.

A survey by Resolve Political Monitor, conducted exclusively for The Age, revealed 57 per cent of respondents backed the pokies crackdown which will force all Victorian gamblers to set binding limits on daily poker machine losses.

The majority of Victorians back a plan to introduce player cards and mandatory pre-commitments on the state’s poker machinesCredit: Flavio Brancaleone

Only one in 10 oppose the reform which will also require gamblers to use cashless gaming cards when playing the pokies. About one-third of respondents were undecided on whether they supported the changes.

The reform was announced by the Andrews government in July as part of sweeping overhaul of the electronic gambling industry which Premier Daniel Andrews claimed would give Victoria the toughest gambling and anti-money laundering measures in Australia.

It also included a crackdown on operating hours which will force all gaming machine areas in all venues except Crown casino to shut between 4am and 10am, starting in mid-2024.

But the Andrews government has so far refused to put a timeline on implementing other promised changes including mandatory pre-commitment, carded play and load-up limits, saying the changes would be “subject to thorough consultation with industry through an implementation working group”.

The government has asked venues, including the clubs sector, to submit feedback before September 20 which it will then consider as part of the reform process

The chief executive of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Carol Bennett, welcomed the reforms but said Victoria couldn’t claim it had the country’s strictest gambling rules until it announced a start date for mandatory pre-commitment rules for the state’s 27,372 poker machines.

“When Premier Andrews commits to implementing mandatory pre-commitment and carded play that’s when we will know he is really serious,” Bennett said.

The government previously announced mandatory pre-commitment rules for the 2628 poker machines at Crown casino, following recommendations by the 2021 Finkelstein royal commission.

Last year Tasmania became the first state to commit to mandatory pre-commitment cards for poker machines which will be rolled out across the state by December 2024.

“Tasmania is going further with a date to introduce mandatory precommitments and cashless gaming cards. That is a much higher bar; it’s the gold standard and all the experts agree,” she said.

“The Andrews government hasn’t done that; so far they have said they will consult and decide.”

Experts also warn that many of the other proposed reforms announced by the Andrews government, including altering the “spin rate” and load limits, don’t go far enough and only bring Victoria into line with other pokies reforms around Australia.

As part of its package, the Andrews government announced that the spin rate for new poker machines would be moved to three seconds from just over two seconds to try and slow the pace of gambling.

Premier Daniel Andrews claimed the reforms would give Victoria the toughest gambling and anti-money laundering measures in Australia.

Premier Daniel Andrews claimed the reforms would give Victoria the toughest gambling and anti-money laundering measures in Australia.Credit: Jason South

In response, Australia’s largest poker machine operator The Endeavour Group said three-second spin rates are already the standard for gaming machines at all of its hotels in Victoria. The drinks and poker machine operator has also adjusted the opening hours for its gaming machine areas, 10 months ahead of the change, bringing it into line with rules for gaming machine areas in New South Wales and South Australia.

Bennett said while the reforms were a “step in the right direction”, the gambling reform group wanted to see longer closures for gaming rooms from midnight until 10am.

“The research shows that between midnight to 4am is when the most harm is occurring, but they stopped short of that,” she said.

Under the Andrews government proposal, Victorian gamblers will also be subjected to “load limits” meaning the maximum amount of money a player can feed into a poker machine at any one time will be cut from $1000 to $100. Such a change will bring Victoria into line with Queensland where the load limit is $100 and South Australia where the limit is $99.99.

According to the state government, about 330,000 Victorians experience harm as a result of gambling each year which costs Victoria around $7 billion.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the state government insisted the reforms would provide “the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia”.

“We owe it to all Victorians to take this stance and help those experiencing harm turn their lives around,” the spokesperson said.

“We will work closely with venues, including the clubs sector, on these reforms over the coming months so we can support them through these significant changes.”

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