Pokies self-exclusion fails to live up to expectation 

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Queanbeyan poker machines do a roaring trade

A self-exclusion register for poker machine users is in place, but there is no evidence a pub or club has ever been prosecuted for allowing self-excluded punters to gamble.

The ABC reports a unique event occurred in Australian gambling history in December 2012, when an employee at a Gympie hotel in Queensland was fined for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent a self-excluded gambler playing poker machines.

An ABC Investigation queried state and territory gambling regulators about how many times there had been fines or prosecutions for allowing self-excluded gamblers into venues since these laws were first introduced in the early 2000s.

The Gympie prosecution of an individual employee was the only example provided.

There was no evidence that a single pub or club in any state or territory has ever been punished for the same breach of the law.

Western Australia does not have poker machines in pubs or clubs and New South Wales is yet to introduce fines for breaches of self-exclusion laws.

In the Freemasons Hotel case, the fine was a drop in the ocean compared to the $13 billion lost each year in Australia on poker machines.

The court fined the pub’s employee just $440 after she admitted to making 38 gaming machine payments to a self-excluded gambler during a six-month period.

Alliance for Gambling Reform’s Tim Costello is astonished there has been just one prosecution relating to the laws designed to prevent gambling addicts from entering venues.

“We routinely hear from people that the self-exclusion scheme is grossly ineffective, and this proves it,” Mr Costello said.

“One fine of $40 in 15 years across seven states and territories says it all. The industry should hang their collective heads in shame over this.”

NSW aims to link self-excluded gamblers to preload card

Self-exclusion schemes were introduced in various states and territories around 15-20 years ago.

They are designed to allow gamblers who have identified themselves as having a problem controlling their user of poker machines to be put on a register and banned from entering certain premises.

Earlier this year, gambling researchers from CQ University found that “monitoring of self-exclusion has numerous deficiencies.”

The academic conducted focus groups with gaming room staff and found that the flaws in the system included: “Failure to update the self-exclusion register; too many self-excluders for staff to recognise them…and the near impossibility of recognising people from very poor quality photos that were not always accessible to floor staff.”

ABC Investigations spoke to more than 30 problem gamblers and their relatives who have told us that they or their loved ones have been able to continue playing poker machines in venues they are barred from in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT.

One woman contacted ABC Investigations from prison, where she is serving time for gambling-related crime, to highlight what she sees as the deficiencies  in the self-exclusion system.

NSW Minister for responsible gambling Victor Dominello has acknowledged that the self-exclusion system is not working and wants to radically change the laws in the state with the most pokies.

He is proposing fines of up to $27,500 for breaches of self-exclusion and introducing a compulsory pre-loaded card that would be linked directly to the self-exclusion register, blocking problem gamblers who have agreed to bar themselves from venues.

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