[This story has been updated since it was originally posted on 12 June.]
The ACT Greens want immediate measures decided on for pokies reform, calling for gaming machines in the ACT to have bet limits reduced to $5. They’ve also called for the introduction of a $100 load limit.
ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said reports over the shutdown period indicate “relief” for those with a gambling problem: “The inability to access poker machines has given them a real break”.
He said that as gaming venues begin to open up again in the near future, now is the time to discuss reform to create a “better normal”. The ACT Government’s roadmap for the easing of COVID-19 restrictions lists casinos, gaming and gambling venues among the last to be allowed to reopen in stage three in mid-July.
ClubsACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees has expressed concerns about the cost of implementation and has called on the ACT Greens to release the policy costing details. Mr Rees put the cost of replacing the ACT’s fleet of machines, if required, at around $100 million.
Mr Rattenbury said the proposal would require the industry to retrofit machines, and said while advice received by the Greens suggests costs will vary by machine, he believes the ClubsACT figure is “many times higher than the actual cost”.
He says the proposal has an 18-month implementation phase for venues to upgrade machines “in a planned way”, and ensure new machines are programmed with the new bet and load limits.
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has backed the Greens’ calls, and CEO Emma Campbell called on ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals to adopt the policy.
The Canberra Liberals have come out against the proposal; Shadow Gaming and Racing Minister Mark Parton said the Government should focus efforts on creating jobs and “getting 2,000 club staff back to work”.
According to Dr Campbell, “we should take this opportunity to continue to reduce gambling harm as clubs start to reopen in the ACT, noting the increased vulnerability of many members in our community”.
ACTCOSS is part of the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance which has previously called for a load limit of $100 and a reduction of bet limits to $1.
Dr Campbell said more than 47,000 people in the ACT are affected by gambling harm at any one time, while a recent study from the Australian National University found 17,000 adults in the ACT had been personally affected by a loved one’s gambling.