Gambling reform experts urge focus be placed on gaming industry

Gambling reform advocates are calling on the state government to do more to target the gaming industry after the terms of a new consultation paper reviewing pokies regulation was released on Thursday. 

The paper will seek feedback from both the gambling industry and members of the community on issues surrounding prevention of harm to problem gamblers. 

The review will specifically focus on access to cash in gaming venues, cashless gaming systems, responsible gaming codes of conduct, self-exclusion programs, responsible service of gaming training and regional limits on poker machine numbers. 

Salvation Army Captain and Ballarat Action on Gambling Harm spokesperson Claire Emerton said both state and federal governments focused on addressing problem gamblers, when the real issues surrounded the industry itself.

“It’s about the industry and the machines, because we know they are not safe yet we keep trying to put the onus and the policy back onto the gamblers,” Ms Emerton said.  “There’s a lot of research about how unsafe pokies are.” 

Over the 2015/16 financial year Ballarat gamblers poured more-than $54 million into the city’s 663 pokies, averaging out to more-than $105,000 a week. 

Ms Emerton is a long-time supporter of the introduction of $1 bet limits, a concept which has the support of notable gambling harm minimisation advocates such as  Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesperson Tim Costello and independent federal senator Nick Xenephon.  The Victorian limit is currently set at $5 per spin, however this differs at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

Speaking to The Courier in October, Mr Costello described pokies as “ravenous, addictive and fast,” and said the introduction of a new bet limit was crucial to addressing problem gambling. 

A government spokesperson said Victoria already had the lowest maximum bet in the country, and that “with this consultation we are now seeking feedback on other protection measures, in order to strike the right balance between protecting problem gamblers, and ensuring the current rules are up to date”.