Urgent reform needed to tackle social harm from pokies

2 June 2022

In a submission to the ACT Government today, the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has expressed its support for the ACT government’s proposed changes to reduce gambling harm caused by the ACT’s Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) or pokies.

ACTCOSS’s submission was in response to the Justice and Community Safety Directorate’s Discussion paper – ‘Lowering bet and credit limits for gaming machines’ which proposes to:

  • Lower the bet limit on ACT EGMs from $10 to $5
  • Introduce a load-up limit of $100
  • Implement a Central Monitoring System to support clubs running gaming machines to implement these measures.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “This is a welcome initiative as part of the ACT Government’s commitment to reducing gambling harm and responds to a long-standing campaign by ACTCOSS, the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance (CGRA) and other stakeholders in the ACT.

“However, this must be followed by further reform. ACTCOSS is keen to see actions including the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment in all venues, the banning of poker machine operations between 2am and 10am and further reductions to bet and load-up limits.

“In the ACT, 99% of all pokies are in community clubs. Community clubs play an important role in Canberra and ACTCOSS acknowledges that small clubs may need support to diversify from pokie revenue.

“However, by reducing risks of gambling harm, we can ensure that community clubs become safer, more inclusive and welcoming spaces for all,” Dr Campbell said.

This week, Dr Marisa Paterson MLA moved a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly calling for a comprehensive review of online gambling in the ACT.

Dr Campbell said: “Online gambling is a pervasive and growing problem in the ACT. It is governed predominantly by federal legislation. ACTCOSS and CGRA made submissions to the Australian Parliament supporting legislation to ban the use of credit cards for online gambling.

“We welcome Dr Paterson’s call for action to raise awareness and tackle harm from online gambling. We look forward to the ACT Government calling on the new federal Labor Government to introduce legislation to restrict online gambling including advertising.

“The ACT Government has limited powers to govern online gambling. It does, however, have the power to massively reduce gambling harm caused by pokies,” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS also called for further discussion on the increasing of the ACT’s Betting Operations Tax.

Dr Campbell said: “We need to ensure that tax revenue from online gambling – and the harm that ensues – is not simply used to replace revenue from the ACT’s pokies once the ACT Government delivers on its commitment to reduce bet and load up limits on gaming machines,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS’s Gambling Reform submission can be viewed on our website.

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