Legislation Introduced on Pokies Reforms
Thursday, 1st November 2012 at 10:53 am
Controversial legislation to tackle gambling addiction and poker machine reform has been introduced into Federal Parliament paving the way for a pre-commitment trial in the ACT.
The Minister for Community Services Jenny Macklin told Parliament the reforms help problem gamblers, including the requirement that pre-commitment technology be implemented on gaming machines.
The Federal Government announced its intention to legislate in January 2012 including undertaking a large-scale trial of mandatory pre-commitment, as well as expand pre-commitment technology to every poker machine across the country.
The Australian Greens gambling spokesman Richard Di Natale said the Greens had agreed to back the bill in exchange for government funding of a national gambling research centre.
The centre will cost $1.5 million a year and Jenny Macklin told Parliament would begin work in July under the auspices of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
''These pokies reforms are a long way short of what is needed to curb problem gambling but at least we've made some progress,'' Senator Di Natale said.
Australians spend nearly $12 billion a year on poker machines.
Three-quarters of problem gamblers play the pokies. And one in six people who play the pokies regularly has a severe gambling problem.
“Problem gamblers lose an average of $21,000 a year on their addiction. That’s about a third of the average annual salary – hard-earned money that isn’t being used to pay bills, the mortgage or put food on the table,” Minister Macklin told Parliament.
The Productivity Commission estimated that the social cost of problem gambling to the community is about $4.7 billion each year.
The National Gambling Reform Bill requires:
- that all gaming machines must be part of a state-wide pre-commitment system and display electronic warnings by the end of 2016. (Pre-commitment lets pokie players decide themselves how much they are willing to lose, set a limit before they play)
- All new gaming machines that are manufactured or imported from the end of 2013 will be required to have pre-commitment capability.
- Under the legislation, people who play gaming machines can choose to register for pre-commitment. Once registered, they can set a ‘loss limit’ on the amount that they are prepared to lose during a chosen period – known as a ‘limit period’.
- The Bill also makes clear that a national database of player information must not be established.
- The Bills establish minimum requirements for harm minimisation for gaming machines. States and territories will be able to impose stronger measures, and the minimum requirements can work concurrently with state or territory laws. States and territories will also continue to be able to determine the distribution and number of gaming machines in their jurisdiction.
- The Bills also introduce a $250 per day automatic teller machine withdrawal limit for gaming machine premises – other than casinos and exempted premises in smaller communities, where access to cash is not readily available from non?gaming outlets. This will take effect from 1 May 2013.
- The Bills also provide for the monitoring and investigation of compliance with the new legislation, which will be undertaken by the Regulator or their delegate, as outlined. It sets out enforcement measures, including civil penalty orders, infringement notices, injunctions, enforceable undertakings and compliance notices.
- The Bills establish a new Australian Gambling Research Centre within the Australian Institute of Family Studies to undertake and commission research into gambling, and to build the capacity for research into this area.
The Churches Gambling Taskforce chair Rev. Tim Costello, said the legislation is a first step towards future reform.
“While the legislation doesn’t address all the issues it will put in place a much stronger pre commitment system than was committed to in the Victorian legislation, which had the support of all parties in the Victorian Parliament,” Rev Costello said.