ACT Government introduces new surrender initiative to cut down number of pokies

18 March 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed a new initiative aimed at reducing the reliance of Canberra’s community clubs on revenues from EGMs (Electronic Gaming Machines) or ‘pokies’.

The initiative, announced by ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury MLA, will pay Canberra’s community clubs $15,000 for each gaming machine authorisation surrendered. The payment will be increased to $20,000 per authorisation where venues surrender all machines and become ‘pokie-free’.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell welcomed the initiative as part of the ACT’s Government commitment to reducing gambling harm and protecting vulnerable consumers.

Dr Campbell said: “It is promising to see the ACT Government acting on its commitment to reduce the number of poker machines. However, with an estimated 10.8 poker machines for every 1,000 adults in the ACT, more needs to be done to reduce the number of gaming machines in operation.

“Gambling harm severely impacts our community. The social and financial costs of gambling are huge to individuals as well as the ACT community.

“Use of poker machines is the most effective predictor of problem gambling in the ACT and the risk of gambling harm increases the more time someone spends on pokies.

“People experiencing domestic and family violence, older people, people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are at a higher risk from gambling. The ACT Government must take actions to protect vulnerable groups from the concerning ramifications of gambling harm,” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS has long advocated for a number of cost-effective, evidence-based measures to reduce gambling harm. In addition to the reduction of the number of poker machines in ACT, ACTCOSS supports the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance’s calls for:

  • Limitation on access to cash in poker machine venues across both ATMs and EFTPOs to a daily limit of $250
  • Introduction of a bet limit of $1 on all poker machines in the Territory and limit load-up to $100
  • Introduction of mandatory pre-commitment in all venues
  • Banning poker machine operation between 2.00am and 10.00am each day
  • Increase of transparency regarding the community contributions scheme and prioritisation of actions that reduce gambling harm.

“Over 99% of the ACT’s gaming machines are in community clubs. The presence of active gambling leaves many members of the community feeling unsafe and uncomfortable in these venues. We look forward to seeing many community clubs engage in the surrender initiative and hopefully becoming pokie-free venues. In doing so, clubs will become safer, more inclusive and welcoming spaces for all.

“We need to see greater investment from the ACT Government in targeted action to urgently address gambling harm in our community. ACTCOSS welcomes the surrender initiative as a first step in the right direction whilst pressing for further urgent action,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact

Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617.

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