Vic Government Accused of ‘Sneaky’ Push for Cash Free Pokies Gambling
16 August 2017 at 1:53 pm
Anti-gambling campaigners have slammed the Victorian government over a move to introduce cash free pokies in pubs and clubs via its independent gambling regulator, describing the process as “sneaky”.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) has issued a notice calling for public feedback on draft documents in relation to the future operation of “ticket-in ticket-out” (TITO) and card-based cashless (CBC) gaming in Victorian clubs and hotels.
Members of the not-for-profit advocacy group Alliance for Gambling Reform, including anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello, said the government was trying to introduce cashless gambling by “stealth” and the move by the VCGLR “had been done very quietly”.
“This is a really sneaky move by the government. One of our board members got a tip-off [on Tuesday] five days after it was floating around the VCGLR website,” Alliance for Gambling Reform executive director Tony Mohr told Pro Bono News.
“Slipping a new policy out under the mat, with the only notification being on the regulator website, is appalling policy making,” Mohr said.
“The minister and everyone in the government has remained silent on this policy. Their first comment should be to scrap the process and rule out cashless poker machine gambling.”
According the VCGLR website the closing date for comment is 1 September 2017.
“It’s ridiculous. Anyone who wanted to make a comment or complaint about this would have next to no time in which to make a response. The industry knows all about it of course because they have been pushing for it for a while. This is a terrible process,” Mohr said.
According to the VCGLR website the documents relate to “proposed regulatory instruments and if made, will be enforced at Victorian gaming venues where TITO or CBC gaming is introduced”.
“Cashless gambling would make it much harder for poker machine users to keep track of how much they’re losing. It would increase the already devastating harm caused by poker machines,” Mohr said.
“The VCGLR or treasury has very likely already assessed how much poker machine losses would increase by if cashless gaming is given the green light. Victorian Gaming Minister [Marlene] Kairouz must disclose the additional losses that such a policy would cause.
“While cashless gaming is ushered in quietly, Victorians are still waiting on the government to respond to several inquiries into harm reduction policies, months after they reported to the government.”
— Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport) August 15, 2017
On Friday the Victorian government announced that gambling venues that earned the most from pokies would be forced to pay more tax under a new pricing system which is said “would increase taxes for pubs, clubs and hotels with high-earning gaming machines”.
The government statement was under the headline A Fairer Pricing System For Gaming Machines in Victoria.
Kairouz said the new arrangements would come into effect when the current gaming machine licences expired in August 2022 – providing pubs, clubs and hotels the certainty needed to plan for the future.
“From August 2022, the price for gaming machine entitlements will be calculated using a formula based on a weighted average of a venue’s gaming machine revenue over the past four financial years, with a minimum price applying to club and hotel entitlements,” Kairouz said.
However, the government made no mention of the introduction of the cashless gaming system to pubs and clubs.
In a statement provided to Pro Bono News Kairouz said: “Cashless gaming has operated at Crown Casino for several years, and we understand some pubs and clubs are interested in introducing this technology at their venues.”
“The independent VCGLR has developed draft standards for cashless gaming in anticipation of pubs and clubs wanting to introduce this technology and those standards are now open for public consultation.
“We’re currently considering appropriate harm minimisation measures for cashless gaming as part of our broader review of gaming machine regulations in Victoria.”
Copies of the documents and information on how to provide feedback is available on the VCGLR’s request for comment page.
Feedback must be submitted by 1 September 2017.