“All the evidence that’s needed”: Greens call for urgent action to close loopholes and reduce pokies harm

Today’s  release of the ACT Gaming and Racing Commission’s report into cash withdrawal facilities in gaming machine venues highlights the need for ongoing reform to limit gambling harm in the ACT, said ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

“The report from the Gambling and Racing Commission confirms what we already suspected – that EFTPOS facilities are being used to circumvent the $250 cash withdrawal limit that applies to ATMs in gaming venues.

“While clubs are supposed to operate under a voluntary Code of Practice to prevent unlimited cash-over-counter EFTPOS, it is clear self policing has not worked. We need legislation to ensure that these limits are adhered to.

“I’m also especially concerned that multiple venues had either ATMs or EFTPOS facilities located between 1 and 5 metres from the nearest gaming machine, and that others displayed clear signage showing where more money could be accessed, including towards EFTPOS facilities—where there’s no limit to sums taken out. Other venues aren’t complying with minimum requirements of $250 daily limits.

“ It’s not surprising, then, that the report should find that clubs aren’t complying with the intent of the legislation. Clubs are supposed to be there for their communities, not to fleece them.

In May this year I introduced a motion into the Assembly calling on the government to close the EFTPOS cash withdrawal loophole ($250 in line with ATM limits) and increase transparency around social impact assessments.”

“The Greens reject the claim that this is a matter of personal responsibility. We know that poker machines are addictive and are deliberately designed to extract excessive amounts of money from vulnerable people – it is not the fault of the individual user.

“This Assembly has been far too slow in taking problem gambling seriously and in taking real measures to protect against the dangerous impacts of poker machines.

“We are starting to see some progress on this issue with commitments in the Parliamentary Agreement to reduce the number of machines and consideration of other harm minimisation measures. This is a good start but there is more that needs to be done and every day we delay these machines continue to cause harm in our community.

“I had previously called for a change to EFTPOS limits as part of the 2015 inquiry into the future of clubs in the ACT, but this call was not supported by the other parties.

“If we are serious about harm minimisation, a restriction on cash withdrawals should apply to both ATM and EFTPOS facilities in gaming venues across the ACT. This is a relatively easy change that could make a big difference to those people at risk of experiencing gambling harm.

“Having received this report today, the Government now has all the evidence that’s needed to support this change. I look forward to seeing legislation brought to the Assembly shortly to address this important issue,” Mr Rattenbury added.

To learn more about gambling harm in the ACT, visit www.peoplebeforepokies.org.au.