Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay has flagged a Bill to reduce the number of poker machines in the ACT as the Government introduced legislation into the Assembly on Thursday to restrict the amount of EFTPOS cash club patrons can withdraw at one time.
Mr Ramsay said the Government would introduce legislation later in the year to reduce the number of electronic gaming machine authorisations in the ACT to 4000 by 1 July 2020.
Under Thursday’s reform package aimed at reducing the impact of problem gambling in the ACT, club patrons will still be able to withdraw cash but be limited to a maximum of $200 per EFTPOS transaction, which will only be allowed from a single point in the club outside the gaming area.
Weekly NewsletterEvery Thursday afternoon, we package up the most-read and trending RiotACT stories of the past seven days and deliver straight to your inbox..
Mr Ramsay said all stages of the transaction must involve human interaction with a staff member trained in the responsible provision of gambling services.
“At the beginning of this term of government, I made it clear that gambling harm minimisation was one of my key priorities, and we understand the growing community concern around unlimited access to cash in clubs,” Mr Ramsay said.
“Club patrons can continue to access EFTPOS to pay for food, beverages and other club services, while limiting where and how much cash can be withdrawn per transaction. Ensuring that there is human interaction enables clubs to monitor and intervene where repeated cash withdrawals are made.”
Clubs ACT welcomed the move, saying it would provide certainty.
Chief Executive Gwyn Rees said the most important part of retaining EFTPOS cash-out was that there remained an opportunity to have a conversation with a patron who may be at risk.
In May, ClubsACT asked its members to cap EFTPOS withdrawals and strengthen the practice of a conversation with their patrons.
“The policy announced by Government today, will work well with our recent announcement of a Gambling Harm Advisory Committee, where we will seek agreement from our member clubs to implement industry best practice and ensure that problem gamblers are front and centre in clubs’ decision making,” Mr Rees said.
“I am pleased today’s bill will provide for continuity to the approach across all clubs, meaning a level playing field and an approach from Government that considers the very serious issue of community safety.”
The legislation also includes support to help clubs diversify their operations and reduce their reliance on gaming revenue.
Mr Ramsay said the Gaming Machine Amendment Bill 2017 enabled clubs to claim a 50 per cent gaming tax rebate from 1 July 2017, and to lodge and pay their tax on a quarterly, rather than monthly basis.
“The tax rebate will support reinvestment into clubs, allowing them to diversity their income streams away from gaming revenue. We are also providing a $10,000 Community Club grant, which will open later this year,” Mr Ramsay said.
He said the measures would support small and medium clubs to focus on community activities such as sport, music, and the arts.
“These new reforms follow the Government’s decision to increase the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund levy, which took effect from 1 July this year,” he said.
“The increase will mean an additional $300,000 a year to support gambling harm reduction initiatives, such as free counselling and support services for people experiencing problem gambling, their families and friends.”