Fri, Sep 27, 8:11am by Staff Writer
A decision by the South Australian government to allow hotels, clubs and the Adelaide Casino to install pokie machines that accept notes rather than only coins has prompted fierce criticism from crossbenchers and welfare groups, who claim it is a sop to the hotel industry that will only harm problem gamblers.
The government says the measure will bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions, but social welfare advocates argue it will only increase the harms wrought by problem gambling, Independent Daily reports.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the introduction of note acceptors would bring South Australia “into line with other Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions, and would be strictly regulated.”
“The denomination of banknotes and the amount of money allowed to be inserted by a player would be strictly controlled to mitigate any potential risk to problem gamblers,” she said.
The government also announced it would allow single or multiple venues to prohibit problem gamblers’ entry indefinitely.
“Barring orders are an integral part of our measures to combat problem gambling and protecting the community from gambling-related harm,” Chapman said.
“Under these reforms, barring orders may be made for any period or an indefinite period and be initiated for multiple gaming venues.
“In addition, any money won by a barred patron – or unclaimed winnings on gaming machines – will be forfeited and paid into the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesperson Tim Costello told ABC Adelaide that allowing gamblers to feed notes rather than coins into the machines would cause “more marriage breaking up, far more bankruptcies (and more) hungry kids.”
Uniting Communities advocacy manager Mark Henley told FIVEAAA Radio: “other jurisdictions that started off with note acceptors have progressively pulled back to the denominations, they recognise how dangerous note acceptors are.”
“And it would be a very irresponsible move in South Australia to allow note acceptors in particular to be introduced as part of the gambling scene here.”
But Chapman said there was no evidence of increased harms in states that already allow note acceptors on pokie machines.
“Interstate there isn’t evidence that that’s changed up or down,” she told radio this morning.
“We’re putting poker machines in South Australia on the same playing field as interstate and we still accept it’s a significant entertainment and gambling form for South Australians largely in the older age group.”
— Nine News Adelaide (@9NewsAdel) September 26, 2019
The government is also proposing to allow gaming venues, including the Adelaide Casino, to operate on Christmas Day and Good Friday, and to impose a fixed limit on the number of gaming machines in South Australia.
The Australian Hotels Association welcomed the changes, describing them as striking a “balance between preserving some opportunities for the industry – hotels, clubs and the Casino – to grow their business, but also recognizing that there’s already in place in South Australia a significantly well-developed harm minimisation environment.”
“We’re just simply asking to bring South Australian gaming into line with every other mainland state and New Zealand who all use note acceptors.
“In fact, the statistics don’t suggest that they’ve somehow got a greater or lesser problem than us.”
The Australian Greens’s spokesperson for Gambling and Mental Health, the Hon Alison Xamon has put forward amendments to the TAB Bill 2019 that, if adopted, will remove the electronic gambling platform Trackside from the sale of the TAB.
The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Upper House this week after having been passed by the Lower House in June, The National Tribune reported last month.
“Let’s be clear – despite what the Government says – Trackside and poker machines are for all intents and purposes the same thing: they are both forms of electronic gambling, and they are programmed to be addictive and to derive maximum profits for the owners.
“Western Australians are justifiably proud of the fact that WA has been the only State not to have pokies except for in the Casino.
“We know that any short term financial gain from including Trackside in the sale will be offset many times over by the social harms it will bring,” Ms Xamon cautioned.
“I urge my fellow parliamentarians to heed the warnings of public health experts and the community sector.
“It is outrageous that the Government has proceeded this far in the face of such widespread evidence based opposition. If electronic gambling forms part of the sale of the TAB there will be no going back.
“If Labor, the Liberals, the Nationals and the cross-bench are serious about promoting the well-being of West Australians they should support my amendments when the Bill is debated in Parliament this week,” she said.
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