12 June 2024

ACT election: Labor punts on plan to cut ACT pokies to 1000, allow clubs to use land for housing

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Gaming machines

ACT Labor wants to kill two birds with one stone in its plan to reduce gambling harm. Photo: Duallogic.

The number of poker machines in the ACT will be slashed to just 1000 by 2045 if Labor is re-elected in October in a plan that aims to reduce gambling harm and open up land for much-needed housing.

ACT Labor says it will legislate to force clubs to give up 500 machines every four years until the target is met.

The sweetener will be a framework for clubs to develop sustainable alternative revenue streams, including practical ways for clubs to unlock their land so it can be used for housing, build-to-rent projects, and aged care.

“The outcome will be more affordable housing in accessible locations across Canberra,” ACT Labor said.

READ ALSO Pressure on community groups means Canberrans are at risk of losing vital support

Labor will establish a Community Clubs Diversification Team in the ACT Government.

This team will provide clubs with a single point of contact for interacting with the government, support the master planning of club sites, help with social impact assessments when looking to de-concessionalise all or part of existing leases and review permissible uses for gaming machine offsets.

An innovation fund will also provide seed funding to support diversification efforts.

ACT Labor said its plan to reduce the harm caused by gambling addiction also included the introduction of mandatory, account-based cashless gaming in all ACT venues.

“A re-elected Labor Government would fast track the implementation of a cashless framework to 2026-27, which would provide users with personal spending and time limits to reduce harm arising from their use of pokies,” it said.

Cashless gaming would allow the establishment of harm reduction measures such as digital wallets, personal spending limits, time limits and breaks, player activity statements in real-time and restrictions on access to credit cards and transfers from overdrawn accounts.

Community clubs would be required to cover the implementation costs of cashless gaming.

A re-elected ACT Labor Government will also ban ATMs and EFTPOS withdrawals in clubs and strengthen self-exclusion.

Under Labor’s self-exclusion policy, a person would be suspended from their account and/or setting up a new account for a period of time that they decide. However, they would still be able to enjoy other community club functions such as dining or events.

An ACT Labor Government will also encourage the establishment of a “club of the future” in the Molonglo Valley – a community club without pokies.

In March, the Gaming Machine Amendment Bill 2023 was passed in the Legislative Assembly banning poker machines from the Molonglo Valley or future suburbs of Canberra, following Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson’s campaign to keep the Molonglo pokie-free.

ACT Labor said the community clubs sector played an important role in Canberra as a major local employer and a strong supporter of community and junior sports and cultural events.

“But the future of community clubs cannot be linked to the harm caused by gambling addiction, and the transition away from electronic gaming machines needs to continue,” it said.

ACT Labor said the most effective way to reduce the harm caused by pokies is to reduce the number of machines available, and their geographic availability, alongside the introduction of mandatory harm reduction measures in venues.

“Alongside this legislated compulsory reduction system, ACT Labor will continue to work with the local community clubs to move towards a more sustainable sector that delivers a long-term community benefit,” it said.

“It’s a progressive, practical and proven plan to reduce the harm caused by gambling addiction and build a sustainable community clubs sector for Canberra’s future.”

READ ALSO Babies included in midwife-to-patient ratios in upcoming ACT Budget

The number of machines in Canberra has fallen from 5022 in 2015 to 3790 today. The government is already aiming to reduce this number to 3500 by 1 July 2025.

Under the government’s Gaming Machine Voluntary Authorisation Surrender Scheme, the government pays clubs $15,000 for each gaming machine authorisation that is voluntarily surrendered.

In March, that was extended to $20,000 per machine if a club went ‘pokie-free’.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Max Scheckenbac5:10 pm 12 Jun 24

Interesting, what are Green – labour government doing about the constant TV gambling ads on during prime time TV??
Encouraging all of all ages to gamble on football games of all varieties.
What about the constant gaming ads now flooding games on our I-devices. Or the gambling apps freely available to download with no controls.

Well at least the people Canberra will not be able to spend their hard earned cash on pokies they will just have to buy drugs with their spare cash to get their fix!!!

In other news the Queanbeyan Leagues club has announced it will increase its pokies by 3500 by 2045 and provide free bus services to ACT residents…

Thank you ID for your revealing comment. It highlights how little some of these clubs care for the health and welfare of their patrons. Preying on the most vulnerable in our society and encouraging gambling addiction through various well-worn techniques. Thank goodness we have politicians in the government willing to walk the talk taking steps to reduce gambling harm in our community.
The Queanbeyan Leagues Club has always been an outdated and boring old club from my experience with your comment giving me another excuse not to walk through its doors!

I will never cease to be amazed by this government’s pre-election brainfarts.

We are in a climate where the banks are driving a cashless economy (so that consumers are forced to use cards, which attract mercant fees, which are increasingly overtly passed on to consumers, instead of being absorbed as a cost of doing business)

Many are resisting, carrying cash, or withdrawing ad hoc to avoid fees.
Now Barr will prevent club diners withdrawing cash for meals & drinks.

Ban the pokies to protect the few OK, but not the ATMs

Andrew Cooke11:12 am 13 Jun 24

What? Many are resisting? Are these the same people “resisting” and doing their own research on vaccines?

The usage of cash has declined from 70% of all transactions in 2007 to 13% in 2022 and is forecast to decrease to 4% by 2030.

@Andrew Cooke
It’s a real challenge for the “cashless society” when comm’s links go down – I’m thinking the nationwide Optus outage in November last year, when businesses were unable to process card transactions and only cash was acceptable. How many small businesses are going to be happy to process POS transactions offline?

There’s no mention here of mandatory betting limits. Without those, this is all window dressing.

Adults set their own betting limits. They don’t need daddy government to do it for them. Personal responsibility is still a thing.

I really hope you never have to experience the pain of seeing a relative or friend experiencing serious gambling harm, although it would help with your apparent empathy deficit.

I have seen it, Mary. I grew up with gambling addicts for parents. That doesn’t absolve people of personal responsibility. If you had the first clue about gambling addiction, you’d understand that reducing pokies won’t do a damn thing. These people will bet on two flies crawling up a wall. Take away the pokies and they will go to a casino, take away the casino and they will bet on the horses, or gamble online etc etc.

We need less government noses in our business, and more personal accountability.

The government has given the clubs piles of money for the pokies they don’t want and yet total losses continue to increase. Mandatory betting limits are essential to reduce gambling losses and the harm they cause across the community.

Or, the government can butt out of peoples lives. I know some of us can’t live life without being told what to do and lack impulse control. That shouldn’t be made everybody elses problem.

No-one is proposing to ban gambling.

Even Labor don’t want this. Purely a greens policy to reduce pokes and clubs.

The digital wallet seems to be Labor’s spin. They want to control every aspect of life nothing will be private under a Labor government.

We’re headed down a path to a cashless society with social credit system.

Not even China has succeeded yet on implementing the social credit system idea in any meaningful way for more than a tiny proportion of their population – you think its going to be driven and effectively implemented by an ACT Labor Government hahahaha. We all know the calibre of local politicians after all.

And what have you got to hide if we move increasingly to a cashless society? Government’s struggle to pull their pants up, but somehow you think they are going to turn into superhuman entities that will control every aspect of life by actually looking at the copious amounts of data that, for all effective purposes, they already can get a hold of anyway.

Hahaha, yeh nice fantasy.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear!

Mmmmmmm, boot leather!

The government has been working extremely hard to reduce gambling harm in our community over the past 10 years. This campaign has been ongoing and has significant community support. Great leaps have been made. Labor’s Dr Marisa Patterson, a first term MLA has been relentless in her endeavours to reduce gambling harm. This saw her office contact every resident in the Molonglo Valley who overwhelmingly chose not to allow poker machines in clubs in the valley. This resulted in The Gaming Machine Amendment Bill.
All strength to Dr Paterson!

What have you got to hide Ken?

It’s about my basic right to privacy, JS9. If you want to live under total surveillance, move to China or North Korea and leave normal people alone.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.