Rather than seeking more poker machines to increase revenue, clubs need to be improving harm minimisation measures to protect people who are at risk of addictive gambling behaviour, and thinking about other ways to diversify their business models.
The Greens believe that clubs have a social responsibility to contribute to the broader community, particularly if they are relying on revenue that causes social, financial and health-related harms to Canberrans who struggle with problem gambling.
Following the 2016 election, the ACT Greens secured a commitment to reduce the number of poker machine licenses in the ACT down to 4000 by 2020. Already we've seen a significant reduction in the number of poker machine licenses in the ACT, as well as having restrictions placed on EFTPOS transactions in clubs.
We are also pleased to have secured an increase to the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund levy from 0.6% to 0.75% of Gross Gaming Machine Revenue as part of the Parliamentary Agreement. This change will contribute $250,000 more to research on gambling harm and local groups supporting problem gambling in our community.
The problem with pokies
Poker machines are built for addiction
Designers spend millions intentionally building poker machines to extract as much money as possible, using well known principles of behavioural psychology to create addiction. Lights and music are designed to disguise losses as wins and keep users calm. People who use pokies account for 75–80% of problem gamblers.
What are the Greens calling for?
The Greens support the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for harm minimisation measures being applied to all poker machines in the ACT, including:
- mandatory pre-commitment
- $1 maximum bets per spin
- limits on how much cash an individual can load into a machine ($120/hour maximum losses)
We are also committed to reducing the total number of gaming machines in the ACT by 30% over 10 years, with the recent announcement of 934 surrenders being an important first step in this process.
We support complementary harm minimisation measures, including:
- limits on ATM and EFTPOS cash withdrawals at gambling venues
- restrictions on how jackpots are paid
- increased funding for education, research and counselling
- stricter rules around maximum bet sizes, load-up limits, maximum wins and time displays in venues
- increased signage in venues
- restrictions on loyalty programs.
Pokies are plaguing Canberra
As of September 2018 the ACT had the second highest ratio of any state or territory in Australia.
In 2014-15 almost 20% of ACT adults played the pokies at least once, with losses totalling $37.48 million. Non-problem gamblers accounted for 37% of all money lost on poker machines, while 63% came from people with some problem gambling behaviours.
We know that for many problem gamblers, their addiction can escalate. Signs of problem gambling include gambling every last dollar you have, trying to win back money you lost with more gambling, and lying to family and friends about your gambling and how much you’ve spent.