Australia has a thriving gambling industry as Australians love taking a punt on just about everything. At the top of the list when it comes to gambling are slot machines or pokies as they are known in Australia. Gaming regulators in Australia have expressed concern over the last few years over the growing increase in spending on pokie machines and problem gambling in vulnerable areas. Pokies have been a hot topic for debate in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Canberra.
New South Wales Make Changes To Gaming Laws
New South Wales recently approved a set of changes to its gaming laws that govern pokie machines. The changes are expected to boost the revenue of pokie machines in the state and generate an additional $80 million in profits each year. These changes were announced by Racing Minister Paul Toole and one of them include setting a cap on pokie machines in high risk or vulnerable areas. Areas considered to be high risk include Fairfield, where an estimated that $8.5 billion was wagered by residents in 2017.
However, to counter this restriction, the package includes a law that allows clubs and pubs to lease licenses on pokie machines and give them to other venues. Current laws only allow pokie machines to be transferred by sale and one machine has to be forfeited for every three machines sold. The new change to the law would allow venues to actually lease their slot machines instead of forfeiting them. This could also allow smaller regional clubs and pubs to lease out their own pokie machines which could end up in high-revenue areas that are also considered high-risk areas.
Greens MP Justin Field has made a study of Treasury figures and forfeiture rates and says that this law change will cause a number of things to happen. Pokie machines will no longer see a reduction as there will be little to no forfeitures but instead see an addition in the number of machines which will be around 1137 by 2020.
Government Confident That Positive Impact Will Be Made
While MP Field did his best to portray that the change in gaming laws will bring more harm than good and so did Reverend Tim Costello who is the director of the Alliance for Gaming Reform. Costello labeled the new legislation a disgrace and said it felt that it was written by Clubs NSW. The Reverend made reference to Tasmania’s stance on pokie machines and called on the NSW government to crackdown on the pokie industry and treat it like the tobacco industry.
However both their arguments were countered by a representative of Mr. Toole. In a statement, the representative said that the new policies “will be subject to a range of harm minimisation requirements, including the Local Impact Assessment scheme, prohibitions on moving machines into high-risk areas and a Responsible Gambling Fund levy. Forfeiture is only one of many harm minimisation strategies used to regulate gaming machines in NSW, but will not apply to leasing as it is likely a disincentive to the removal of machines from small pubs and clubs.”
Opposition Upset With Pokie Friendly Laws
Field and Costello have requested an inquiry from parliament before the legislation passes. Costello states that the NSW government has no process on how to amend the 16 pieces of legislation that this law would require. He points out that its implementation should be delayed until after the 2019 NSW election. This will allow the community to have their say on whether NSW should continue on its course as a slot-machine friendly jurisdiction.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform thinks that NSW needs gambling reform and should include bans on political parties and churches from operating slot machines. Another change would be a blanket ban on political donations from any venue or body that operates slot machines. Finally, a maximum annual loss rate should be set at $5 billion.
Clubs NSW, who many detractors say is behind the legislation, has said no to the parliamentary inquiry. A spokesman says that the changes to the legislation have been considered to reduce the risk of gambling harm and critics are just being alarmist about their views.

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