Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Pokies legislation gives more than half of Australia’s clubs and pubs extra time to get ready

Legislation to help problem gamblers introduced into the Parliament yesterday enshrines the package of support the Australian Government announced in January this year.

Labor supports a vibrant and sustainable clubs industry. We recognise that clubs are often the heart of our communities – particularly in regional areas. That is why we listened to the concerns of clubs across the country and ensured that most had extra time to get ready and reducing costs.

  • Across Australia, more than 25 per cent of pubs and clubs (those with 10 or fewer machines) will be able to introduce the changes as they replace their machines – at no additional cost.
  • An additional 26 per cent of pubs and clubs (those with between 11 and 20 machines) have until 2020, which is more than eight years lead time. In this period many machines would have been replaced as part of the usual replacement cycle, now with pre-commitment functionality built in – at no additional cost.
  • In New South Wales, which has more than half the nation’s poker machines, almost two thirds of pubs and clubs have been given extra time to get ready for the voluntary pre-commitment system.

When the Government announced this plan in January it was supported by Clubs Australia.

Clubs Australia clearly supports voluntary pre-commitment and that’s exactly what the Government’s legislation does.

Here are some facts:

Sighting of the legislation

The legislation introduced into the Parliament yesterday was made public as an exposure draft in February this year – more than eight months ago.

The timeframes and requirements on venues have not changed since this exposure draft, except for the ATM withdrawal limit start date, which has been extended to May 2013 to help pubs and clubs with the transition.

Clubs Australia participated in consultations on the exposure draft in February.

The legislation has also been available on my Department’s website since February.

Timetable for roll out of pre-commitment

It is not the case that all clubs will be required to implement pre-commitment technology by 2016.

In fact, the changes are being phased in over a decade to reduce costs for smaller pubs and clubs.

More than half of Australia’s clubs and pubs will have extra time to get ready, and 63 per cent of clubs and pubs in regional areas will have more time.

We understand that small pubs and clubs, many in our regional areas, just aren’t the same as the big gambling venues in the city.

Technical requirements

It is not the case that poker machines need to be replaced to introduce pre-commitment.

Existing poker machines can be upgraded for pre-commitment – this is what has happened in trials of voluntary pre-commitment.

Upgrades to existing poker machines cost about $2,000 per machine.

Pubs and clubs have supported and participated in previous trials of voluntary pre-commitment.

“Voluntary pre-commitment technology is strongly supported by the industry; more than 10,000 poker machines have already been installed with venue based, voluntary pre-commitment.” – Anthony Ball, Clubs Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, 1/10/2011

The Government is acting to help protect problem gamblers and their families.

Our reforms will help problem gamblers take control of a harmful and destructive addiction that destroys lives and ruins families.

Problem gambling costs our community more than $4.7 billion a year. We all have a responsibility to reduce the impact problem gambling has on up to 5 million Australians – including problem gamblers themselves, their families, friends and employers.

With legislation now in the Parliament and expected to receive the support of the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is time to get on with the job of helping problem gamblers and their families.