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ACT Pre-Commitment Trial Postponed, Possibly Dead

Wed, Feb 27, 9:47am by Ed Scimia

The planned ACT trial of pre-commitment technology on pokies has been postponed, and may very well be dead in the water depending on the results of this year’s federal election. Canberra clubs unanimously voted against participating in any such trial until after the September 14 election, noting that the opposition coalition would likely dump the trial entirely if they were to control the government after the election.

“It would be a folly to expend the money and resources on starting the trial if it was only going to be cut halfway through by an incoming coalition government,” said Clubs ACT leader Jeff House.

As a part of the recent poker machine reform measures that were passed last year, clubs throughout Australia will have to slowly integrate voluntary pre-commitment technology on their pokies over the course of several years. However, the bill also referenced a trial of mandatory pre-commitment technology that would take place in the ACT, with the results of such a trial potentially impacting future policy towards pokies.

But the actual specifics of the trial weren’t spelled out, and it seems as though the government may not even be able to compel clubs to participate in it. This has led some to speculate that the ACT trial is completely dead in the water, while others believe the trial has only been delayed because of the length of time it took to pass last year’s legislation.

Not surprisingly, independent senator and anti-gambling advocate Nick Xenophon expressed displeasure with the clubs’ decision.

“They were the ones that ran an hysterical fear campaign that caused the delay in the first place,” Xenophon said, referring to Clubs ACT’s assertion that Labor caused the delays that led to the trial being postponed. “I’ve got to give Clubs ACT full marks for sheer brashness. They’re reinventing history.”

Still, Xenophon expressed hope that removing focus from the trial could refocus attention on other reform ideas, such as a $1 maximum bet on pokies.

While independent MP Andrew Wilkie was disappointed – if not surprised – with the clubs’ decision to drop the trial, he also pointed out that even without it, the voluntary pre-commitment technology is mandated to have the capability of becoming mandatory, making the trial largely unnecessary should a future government want to implement a mandatory pre-commitment scheme.

“At some point in the future a federal government of state or territory governments…can go it alone and flick the switch,” Wilkie said.

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