While gambling watchdogs in Britain and Ireland are looking at imposing stricter fines and penalties on gambling operators, Australia has decided to take a different approach. The term ‘different strokes for different folks’ seems to apply to the land down under and its good news for gambling operators in Australia.
There has been a massive increase in problem gambling in the United Kingdom which has forced the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) to tighten regulations and impose huge fines on gaming operators who do not comply with regulations. Australia has decided to take a different approach by educating gambling operators instead of penalizing them and it has paid off.
ACT Gambling Compliance Breaches Drop
This can be seen from the latest figures published by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. The report shows that gambling law breaches dropped by 88 per cent since 2014. This comes as the gambling watchdog made a decision to shit shifted its focus to education instead of imposing fines.
Since 2014, violations have seen a decline with every passing year. Gambling breaches stood at 112 in 2014-15, fell to 70 in 2015-16, dropped further to 26 in 2016-17 and has now fallen to just 13 breaches in 2017-till date. It is interesting to note that the numbers have dropped but the total number of inspections remains the same which is around 250.
The gambling watchdog said the continuous fall in the number of breaches is a positive development and stated that the programs they have conducted in relation to industry compliance and the manner by which they respond to complaints or enquiries played a big role in getting licensees to adhere to relevant laws. The approach also led to lesser enforcement actions.
ACT Clubs That Were Hit With Fines
The commission has been adopting the engage-and-educate approach, running 130 education activities as well as 378 engagement activities during 2017-18. Within the same period, only three enforcement actions were handed out. The most notable of those actions was the one handed out to Raiders Club in Belconnen. The club had been slapped with a massive $120,000 fine for violating poker machine laws.
Raiders Club was unable to detect problem gambling signs exhibited by Laurie Brown, who lost over $200,000. Upon the club’s appeal, the fine was later dropped under the condition that the club donate $60,000 to Lifeline. During the appeal, the commission reportedly spent $74,000 on obtaining legal advice from the ACT Government Solicitor’s Office.
Two other clubs, the Canberra Southern Cross Club Tuggeraning, and the Lanyon Valley Rugby Union & Amateur Sports Club, were each penalized with a $5000 fine, for failing to put in place ATM withdrawal limits.
Among the violations uncovered by the commission were six breaches of the code of practice on gambling following an operation targeting EFTPOS cash withdrawals. The commission detected two instances of staff failing to undertake the required training on responsible gaming.
The other breaches were in relation to failure to report a problem gambling incident, failure to review the Gambling Exclusion Database, inadequate information on 18-year-olds being displayed in a gaming area, and rules and conditions not being available for inspection. The rollout of the new EFTPOS cashout rules also resulted in a high compliance level across the industry.
Two instances of gamblers being paid out winnings despite being excluded from a venue were also uncovered, but instead of taking action, the commission assisted the two licensees through an education approach.
Among other violations identified for the 2017-18 period include two instances of failing to make the needed payment to the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund within a given deadline, one instance of not being able to pay gaming machine tax with the given timeframe, failing to show a valid and approved gaming machine statement, failing to adhere to a licence condition, and two instances of being unable to submit a gaming machine tax return.
ACT’s Pokie Machine Regulations Most Lax
A recent report has found that ACT has been very lax when it comes to implementing pokie machine regulations. The Barr government has now been called to implement mandatory pre-commitment in every pokie machine venue and cut machine numbers by half.
The Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance and the ACT Council of Service have gathered stories from problem gamblers to lay bare the damage caused by gambling addiction to the people of Canberra. Figures have revealed 15,000 people in Canberra are struggling with gambling addiction and almost 50,000 other were indirectly affected.
The gambling watchdog will now have to focus on coming up with measures to reduce problem gambling.

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