Lawmakers mull pokies changes

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Victoria?s YourPlay program a failure

There are ongoing debates about whether financial institutions or government agencies should be able to dictate how people pay for their pokies play.

The overall question about how free societies put limits on gambling is at the heart of the matter, but states, territories and even banks are making decisions that impact Aussies and their rights.

Several months ago, South Australian lawmakers decided to include a controversial measure in their list of proposed gambling reforms, Casino Aus reports.

They wanted the South Australian parliament to consider allowing gamblers to use banknotes in pokies instead of just coins.

Attorney General Vickie Chapman said the measure would put South Australia in line with other states and with New Zealand.

It would also allow the pokies to be more technologically advanced.

Opponents of the measure pointed to massive donations to lawmakers from the Australian Hotels Association, a group that wants people to be able to more easily pay to play the pokies.

The AHA did admit that it would help grow their businesses.

Last week, the Australia Institute released the results of a public survey and study that showed an overwhelming opposition to banknotes in pokies.

Researchers conducted the survey of 503 South Australians from November 1 to 13 this year.

The most significant result was that 80 per cent, four in five, of South Australians believed that allowing players to use banknotes in machines would increase the likelihood of gambling addiction and the level of gambling harm overall.

An even higher number, 82 per cent said, said that they want pokies to accept coins only or even for the machines to be banned altogether.

An even number – 41 per cent – wanted coins only, and the other half wanted a complete ban on pokies.

These results were consistent across genders, age groups, economic status and incomes, and voting party affiliation.

Australia Institute South Australia director Noah Schultz-Boyd said the opposition to the proposed governmental reform is clear and strong.

“South Australians are overwhelmingly convinced that these reforms will have a negative effect on the community,” he said.

“Only 13 per cent of South Australians support the government’s plan while more than 40 per cent want to see poker machines banned outright.”

Banks weighing up changes

Throughout 2019, Australian financial institutions have been mulling the use of credit cards for gambling.

Macquarie became the first to do it this summer in a new policy effective July 1, 2019.

Macquarie decided to block all credit card transaction registered with gambling or lottery merchant codes.

And in addition, the bank capped cash advanced balances at $1,000, effective at the end of August.

The bank made the decision to be proactive in “helping our customers manage their finances effectively and avoid problematic credit card debt.”

He added that these goals are in line with these company’s overall commitment to the financial wellbeing of its customers.

Other financial institutions began to consider similar moves but looked to the Australian Banking Association for guidance.

That prompted the ABA to put together a consultation paper and find out what customers and the public at large want to see.

The ABA released the consultation paper earlier this month, to see views from the public about credit card use and gambling.

ABA’s chief executive officer Anna Bligh said that bank want to take their role in minimising gambling harm seriously, but want to do so in conjunction with public support.

“As an industry, we are currently assessing a number of options to help tackle problem gambling,” she said.

Submissions to questions on the consultation document will be accepted through to the end of March 4, 2020.

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