Wilkie to Support “Watered Down” Pokie Reform
22 May 2012 at 3:36 pm
Flickr image: Some rights reserved by ragingwire
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has decided to vote in support of the Gillard Government’s National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 despite continuing reservations.
Wilkie has described the Bill as “a disappointing watering down of the deep poker machine reform agreed to with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, after the 2010 federal election. But it’s the best thing on the table right now and a step in the right direction so I will support it.”
In January the Prime Minister abandoned her agreement with Andrew Wilkie to implement mandatory pre-commitment technology on poker machines by 2014. Instead, the technology will be trialled in the ACT from next year and a decision deferred until 2016.
However, in announcing his decision after months of negotiation, Wilkie says the Government to its credit has agreed to two crucial amendments to the Bill which, in his opinion, fundamentally transform the reform for the better.
“For a start the trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the Australian Capital Territory will be detailed in the Bill, including the requirement for independent bodies to design, manage and evaluate the trial, and for relevant data from neighbouring New South Wales to be included.
“Also now explicit in the Bill will be the requirement that all new and retrofitted machines are to be capable of mandatory pre-commitment at the flick of a switch. In other words no future government of good heart will have to deal with all the bleating about the supposed cost and technology hurdles of implementing mandatory pre-commitment.
Wilkie says it is significant that a Federal Government is progressing pokies reform at all.
“Until now, poker machine regulation has been the exclusive domain of the states and territories who have demonstratively failed to implement effective harm minimisation strategies. Now the states and territories are on notice – do something meaningful to protect problem gamblers or the Federal Government will clamp down even harder.
“Since the 2010 Federal election Australia’s poker machine problem gamblers have lost close to $10 billion on the machines. Many have gone broke and lost their jobs, families and friends. Some have even lost their lives. And all on a legal form of gambling using machines deliberately designed by the pokies industry to addict and fleece so-called players.
“It’s now up to the Government to get on and implement these reforms.”
Tim Costello, the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce says while he acknowledges Andrew Wilkie’s decision to support the legislation, the Bill represents a significant compromise on the original Wilkie Gillard agreement.
“The Taskforce has consistently sought reform of the poker machine industry in Australia, calling for a mandatory pre-commitment scheme that requires gamblers in all electronic gaming venues to set spending limits on high loss poker machines,” Costello said.
“We have also called for $1 maximum bets on all machines limiting losses to $120 an hour, and other consumer protection measures such as reduced access to cash in gambling venues,” Costello said.
“While acknowledging the legislation has fallen very short of the mark, we believe it is a sufficient first step but should not be regarded as a substitute for further reform.
“The Taskforce will support this legislation because we believe that something is better than nothing.
“Whilst disappointed that this is not the reform we wanted, we understand Mr Wilkie’s decision to support this first step.
“This historic piece of legislation is the strongest step yet toward meaningful reform of the damaging poker machine industry in Australia,” Costello said.
Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Christian churches in Australia and the heads of their social services agencies nationally.