Green light for poker machine reforms

CONTROVERSIAL watered down national poker machine reforms are set to go ahead after the Greens agreed to back the Gillard government’s scheme, which will also give the green light for a trial of mandatory precommitment in the ACT.
Nanjing Night Net

After months of negotiation, and several offers from the Greens to support the bill if $1 bets were accommodated, the Greens have agreed to back the reforms which will see every poker machine in Australia offer punters the option to pre-set how much they are willing to lose.

Independent Andrew Wilkie has already “reluctantly” declared support for the bill and lashed the Greens for standing in the way of unprecedented federal pokies reform. Poker machine regulation is currently the domain of states.

Other key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor have previously said they support the ideas of the bill, without having actually seen it.

The Greens support should see the bill pass the lower house and guarantees it through the Senate.

The Greens have, and continue, to campaign for a $1 maximum bet limit as the best way to curb problem gambling on pokies.

Greens gambling spokesman, and public health doctor, Richard Di Natale said the party had now agreed to back the bill in exchange for government funding of a national gambling research centre.

In January Prime Minister Julia Gillard reneged on her deal with independent Andrew Wilkie for a national scheme that would force all punters to preset how much they are willing to lose on the pokies.

Facing a multi-million dollar public campaign from the clubs and pokies industry, particularly in marginal New South Wales and Queensland seats, the government said it did not have support of the parliament to pass the reforms.

Instead, the government offered a national voluntary scheme that would require all machines to offer punters the option of setting a loss limit. While Mr Wilkie reluctantly agreed to back the bill, because it was better than nothing the government, the government has been unable to pass legislation, with the Coalition and Greens both against it.

Under the government’s plan all new machines would also have to be mandatory precommitment ready, with all machines to have the technology by 2016.

If a trial was conclusive then a national network of mandatory precommitment could be switched on by a future government.

Under the scheme there would be a national regulator, all pokies within a state would be eventually be electronically linked.

The Greens have campaigned heavily for a $1 maximum bet limit as the best way to curb problem gambling on pokies, but the government has frequently ruled this out as too costly.

The pokies lobby is vehemently opposed to $1 bets.

The government’s bill also will include a $250 ATM withdrawal limit in pokies venues, and in the case where states have a tougher law, for example in Victoria ATMs are banned from pokies venues, the tougher measure would prevail.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.