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Greens plan to rip up Victoria’s pokies deal

Fri, Jan 11, 1:45pm by Staff Writer

Australia’s love-hate relationship with poker machines has stepped up a notch, with the Greens announcing that it would tear up a 20-year licensing deal legislated by Victoria’s Labor party. The new licensing deal is set to come into effect in 2022.

Local councils would be given the power to decide whether to grant new licenses to pokies operators in 2022, before all licenses are phased out from 2028.

The policy would also see the immediate introduction of maximum $1 bets and other harm minimisation measures that would serve to remove a major revenue source from the government. Pokies losses added $1.1 billion to state coffers last financial year.

The Greens’ plan would cost $1.8 billion over four years and about $6 billion over a decade according to a parliamentary budge office.

The plan sets aside a $200 million compensation fund for pubs and clubs, with a repeal of the licenses sure to trigger legal action from the industry, according to The Guardian Australia.

The opposition is strong from pubs and clubs, with the president of Community Clubs Victoria Leon Wiegard saying: “gambling is something that the Greens don’t like. If we didn’t have organised, properly regulated gambling, it will go underground again.

Pokies gambling expert at Monash University Charles Livingstone said: “my sense is there will certainly be compensation claims and they will be very significant. In order to short circuit that, you would need a compensation fund that is going to be more than $200 million.”

Traditional and non-traditional pokies reform

Pokies reform comes at a time when councils across Australia are taking varying actions to curtail new pokies venues and machines from being acquired in their municipalities.

The Noosa Shire Council have made significant step towards curbing community pokies problems in joining the Alliance for Gambling Reform Group.

The first local government in the state of Queensland to join the group, the move is seen as a sign of leadership in combating pokies issues and may prompt other municipalities in following suit in the near future.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is a national advocacy organisation that works to prevent and minimise harm from gambling.

The organisation is headed by Tim Costello and has provided local councils and other member organisations with expert advice and practical resources to take positive action, especially with regards to getting necessary legislative change to protect communities from the harmful impacts of gambling.

“Of the world’s gaming or poker machines that exist outside of casinos, 75% of them are in Australian pubs and clubs,” he said.

“By joining the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Noosa Council teams up with other local governments, health services, foundations, churches and welfare organisations that have a shared concern about the harmful impacts of gambling, as well as its normalisation in Australian culture.

“This is just another step in Noosa Council’s efforts to ensure the wellbeing of our residents. It is also an action that we hope may be emulated by other Queensland councils,” the Mayor said.

Mr de Chastel said in Queensland that the number of gaming machines increased from 20,888 in July 2004 to 24,583 in July this year.

“The amount of money lost by players of gaming machines has also increased during this period from $68,520,536 to $93,725,270.”

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is 100% funded by donations from individuals and foundations that do not have any ties with the gambling industry. They are not affiliated with any political party.

Across the border in New South Wales, a Byron Bay pub has introduced a new way to raise revenue that is not pokies related.

Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel has made the transition out of its pokies operation into something non-gambling related.

The hotel has recently launched its replacement, the Green Room.

It is a space that “showcases the incredible booze and food offering from our local area,” according to The Urban List.

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