Canberra’s clubs continue to have issues with the government’s plan to introduce $5 bet and $100 load-up limits, arguing it will cost them too much and there is limited evidence to show it helps reduce harm.
In April, Minister for Gaming Shane Rattenbury revealed the government’s intentions to link up all the poker machines in the Territory with a central monitoring system (CMS).
All other jurisdictions, excluding Western Australia, have a CMS.
That system would allow the introduction of the bets and the load-up limits – harm reduction measures intended to slow down the rate at which a person can gamble.
At the time, the government anticipated it would not be live until 2024 and would cost between $11 and $18 million.
Mr Rattenbury said it was expected the government and the clubs would both foot some of the bills, with the clubs expected to pay an ongoing fee.
While he anticipated pushback from the clubs, he hoped extensive consultation would help “avoid the traditional barney”.
Despite these efforts, clubs’ hackles were raised by what they perceived as unfair timing given the challenges of the pandemic and called on the government to focus its efforts on other, less-regulated forms of gambling such as online wagering.
They’ve also questioned the cost, estimating it to be somewhere in the vicinity of $70 million – much higher than the government’s proposal.
After months of consultation, the government’s listening report shows that while clubs and other stakeholders were generally supportive of gambling harm reduction measures, most clubs had, as expected, voiced concerns about the introduction of a CMS and how much it would cost.
“Cost and financial impact was a primary consideration for club sector stakeholders who do not consider the proposal affordable,” the report read.
“[These] included both the initial and ongoing costs of a CMS, devaluation of existing [poker machines] and revenue implications.”
Clubs also raised concerns their existing poker machines and gaming-related assets would become obsolete.
They further expressed fears about the likely ongoing impact on their business caused by consumers jumping the border into NSW to gamble – as had occurred during lockdown – and the possibility of fewer games being available.
Questions about future cashless gaming were also raised.
ClubsACT CEO Craig Shannon said the clubs remained committed to working with the government on the next steps but they stood by their position that the costs of the system were too high.
“It’s the costs we are concerned with coupled with a lack of evidence for the harm minimisation benefits of the government’s position,” Mr Shannon said.
“Whatever the price is at the end of the day, the government is going to have to accept this will have an impact on the clubs’ revenue because we will spend money that is currently not being expended.”
Mr Shannon said the clubs will await the proposal’s next, more technical stages for a final figure.
Last month, the government was forced to delay the introduction of the first tranche of legislation which would have stopped new poker machines from coming online in the Territory unless they had bet limits of $5.
Mr Rattenbury had said these laws would have stopped the problem from getting worse and the clubs from making what they may feel was a “lost investment” and purchasing machines that would then need to be replaced or updated when the full legislation comes into effect.
Mr Shannon told Region the clubs felt the government had tried to be disingenuous with that legislation.
“It’s our view that any timeframe for the introduction of legislation should flow out of the detailed consultation of all the issues by a working group,” he said.
“To have [it] sitting over our heads and being introduced in the absence of this consultation was a flaw in the government’s plan.”
Bet and credit limits were set out in the 2020 Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.