ACT gambling reform advocate pleased with progress being made

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Queensland pokies spend reaches record high

An ACT gambling reform lobbyist has said that although the gambling sector has been slow in responding to gambling harm reforms, the issue has gained greater exposure in recent times.

Casino Guardian reports that Kate Seselja said that authorities in the Australian Capital Territory are reviewing the implementation of measures aimed at minimising new volumes of poker machines in the territory.

Ms Seselja has been dealing with addiction to poker machines herself, with the compulsive behaviour almost making her take her own life nine year ago.

Ever since, she has been a keen supporter of some changes in the sector.

According to her, seeing the ACT, or at least local clubs, become poker machine free would be the best case scenario, considering the detrimental effect they have on communities.

Despite the fact that gambling reform in the ACT has been moving relatively slowly over the years, the local authorities have recently put a number of poker machine related issues on the agenda for a new ministerial advisory council, such as the reduction of the number of poker machine licences, the poker machine bet limits of $5 and load limits of $100.

The ministerial advisory council was commissioned by Gambling Reform Minister and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and involves the United Workers Union, clubs presidents and gambling reform activists.

Clubs and government to have conversation about future of poker machines in the ACT

Mr Rattenbury has shared that he would have to work individually with clubs in order to come up with the most appropriate support packages through the changes.

According to him, the ACT Government agreed that community clubs and their poker machine offerings have become an important part of many Canberrans’ lives, as they not only offer them a meeting place, but also sponsor various community events.

He further noted that council members would provide insight into how the authorities could support local clubs, while at the same time ensuring better protection for local community members against gambling-related harm.

As a former poker machine addict, Ms Seselja explained that it was the engagement with a certain gambling product that inflicts the harm, while another danger comes from the fact that people often do not understand the actual impact that such a compulsive habit could have on their lives.

President of ClubsACT Kim Marshal said that local clubs were trying to bring diversity to their revenue streams by adding products and services that have nothing to do with gambling but the current revenue raised was being brought back to the community because these clubs were not for profit.

Ms Marshal further noted there was a low amount of gambling related harm in the ACT, but the clubs are not trying to avoid the responsibility code on the matter and said authorities could always intervene when they find something wrong.

Cashless pokies trial set for NSW

The advisory council will help pave the way for the government’s proposed gambling reforms, including slashing the number of poker machines across Canberra clubs to 3500, introducing $5 bet limits and $100 load-up limits.

Mr Rattenbury said he expected there would be difficult conversations in the group, after years of ongoing tension between some clubs and the government.

“I expect there will be some really frank, robust and at times difficult conversations,” he said.

“But in having people with different views in the room, I think it’s really important to hear each other’s perspectives.”

Among the issues to be explored by the group will be whether the ACT should look at introducing cashless poker machines.

It was recently announced that NSW would trial cashless pokies at a Newcastle club, with the trial to start in September.

While the ACT government has pledged to conform or exceed NSW reforms in the Labor-Greens power-sharing agreement, Mr Rattenbury stopped short of announcing plans for a cashless trial in the territory.

“We’ll be watching that very closely,” he said.

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