ACT Greens launch People Before Pokies and move to introduce immediate measures to curb pokies harm

In launching the People Before Pokies campaign, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury will today move a motion in the Legislative Assembly that will curb some of the damaging impacts of poker machine addiction in Canberra.

The motion calls on all sides of politics to back changes that will make a significant difference to problem gamblers and their families by addressing two commonsense concerns: the availability of unlimited cash-over-counter EFTPOS withdrawals in pokies venues, and the need for increased transparency around social impact assessments (SIAs) that determine availability of pokies in our community.

The motion seeks to limit daily $250 withdrawal limits in gaming venues to both ATMs and EFTPOS outlets. Currently this provision only applies to ATMs, creating a significant loophole that must be closed.

The second relates to SIAs, which are intended to allow for objective analysis of the economic and social impacts of introducing new or additional poker machines into our communities. These assessments are currently subject to a six week public consultation period, but the process for members of the public to view and respond to SIAs is archaic and largely inaccessible. Today’s motion seeks to improve our community’s access to SIAs, and improve opportunities for all Canberrans to have their say on how many poker machines there are in our community.

Comments attributable to ACT Greens leader and gambling reform spokesperson Shane Rattenbury:

“The Greens have long been calling for a range of urgent measures to protect people in our community from the harm caused by addictive gambling and poker machines. Today’s motion is an important first step in a broader conversation that we need to have about how best to reduce harm from poker machine addiction in the ACT.

"These are changes we can introduce in the short term which will make a significant difference to those people affected by problem gambling in our community.

"If we are serious about harm minimisation, as a minimum, we can restrict unlimited cash-over-the-counter EFTPOS withdrawals, through imposing daily limits. It’s commonsense that this restriction should apply to both ATM and EFTPOS facilities in gaming venues.

"We know that members of our community who have experienced gambling harm say closing this loophole will assist problem gamblers. We must listen and respond to the experiences of those in our community who know all too well the damage that gambling harm can cause.

“The Greens believe that all Canberrans should be able to contribute to important decisions that affect their communities. We know that SIAs are important for assessing the impact of poker machines on local communities, and yet it is extremely difficult for community members to be aware of, and contribute to, these assessment processes. Today I am calling for greater transparency in this area, and there are number of ways this could be achieved. As a starting point, a copy of each SIA must be placed on the Gambling and Racing Commission’s website. Furthermore, while not perfect, the method for considering development applications is an example of a more transparent and accessible public consultation process. Applications for poker machines should be considered with a similar amount of scrutiny.

“The Greens have called for a 30% reduction to the number of poker machines in the ACT over 10 years, bringing us in line with the national average for the number of machines per capita. As part of this process we are pleased to have secured a commitment in the Parliamentary Agreement to reduce the number of poker machines licenses down to 4000 by 2020. This process is now underway.

“As we said at the election, the Greens support the Productivity Commission's recommendations for a suite of harm minimisation measures, including mandatory pre-commitment and $1 maximum bet limits. We will continue to strongly advocate for these important measures as part of a broader package of reform design to curb the damaging effects of gambling harm in our community.

"I recognise that these would be significant changes and that we need to continue to consult with clubs and the wider community as part of this process to ensure that clubs transition away from pokies as a main source of revenue. The Greens remain strongly committed to substantive gambling harm reform over the course of the Assembly, and will do all we can to ensure that we put people before pokies and limit gambling harm.”

Visit peoplebeforepokies.org.au to find out more about the impacts of gambling harm in the ACT, and ways you can take action to support gambling reform.

Key statistics

  • The ACT currently has over 16 pokie machine licences per 1,000 adults – the highest rate of any state or territory.

  • The ANU Centre for Gambling Research found that moderate risk and problem gamblers accounted for 21% of losses from poker machines, even though they represent only 2% of the ACT adult population.

  • Surveys estimate that around 15% of people who play the pokies regularly are problem gamblers, and their share of total spending on poker machines is around 40%.

  • For every person with a gambling problem, between 5 and 10 others (e.g. partners and children) also experience serious consequences. This means that more than two million Australians are affected by problem gambling.