Weakened Poker Machine Reform Legislation Passes

After a long battle, poker machine reform has finally been passed by Parliament, but only with the addition of concessions asked for by the clubs industry that will delay implementation of many of the key provisions in the legislation.
The new provisions were necessary to secure crossbench support, as some Labor MPs have large clubs presences among their constituencies. After several days of final negotiations, a package was agreed upon that gave just enough to gain the support of both anti-gambling advocates and those who were against more dramatic reforms.
The basics of the agreed reforms should be familiar to anyone who has followed the debate over the last two years. Clubs will not be required to add betting limits or mandatory pre-commitment technology to their pokies; instead, only voluntary pre-commitment tools will be required, allowing players to limit their losses only if they wish to do so.
Even that, though, was enough to turn off some in the clubs industry given the cost of adding the pre-commitment technology to their existing pokies. The original proposal would have forced all pokies to have the technology in place by 2016, but that date wasn’t agreeable to clubs that said it was too quick, especially for smaller clubs that would struggle to raise the money to either modify existing machines or purchase new ones.
Under the new rules, machines with pre-commitment technology will be phased in based on the size of each club. The largest clubs – those with more than 20 pokies – will have until 2018 to make the necessary changes. Clubs with 11 to 20 pokies must comply by 2022, while those clubs with 10 or fewer pokies have no deadline, but must ensure that newly purchased machines come equipped with the technology.
That was enough to give the measure broad support, which put the pressure back on Greens and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who had pushed for stronger reforms. Faced with what appeared to be their last chance to pass any poker machine reforms, both the Greens and Wilkie voted in favor of the package, giving the government enough votes to pass the legislation.
Other Measures
The legislation does not remove the possibility of mandatory pre-commitment technology being used in the future. Along with a $250 limit on ATM withdrawals in clubs and other gaming venues, the reform legislation approved a trial of mandatory pre-commitment technology in the ACT. This trial will create machines in which players must agree to loss limits before playing. If the trial proved successful, all machines throughout the country might be forced to use this mandatory pre-commitment technology, so the legislation also requires that new machines can be switched from optional to mandatory systems if necessary in the future.
The agreement was the culmination of a two year battle that started in the wake of the 2010 election. MP Wilkie agreed to support the Gillard government only in exchange for a promise to pass poker machine reform. In turn, the clubs industry began aggressively pushing back with a campaign opposing such reforms.

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