Thu, Aug 24, 12:20pm by Staff Writer
Continuing a curious pattern of inconsistent policymaking, the Victorian government has quietly put forth a proposal to introduce so-called “cashless” pokie machines throughout the state.
The plan introduced by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) was first reported on by the Herald Sun in an article published on August 15.
Although currently in the consultation phase, if approved, the proposal would allow pub owners and other pokie operators to install “Ticket-In Ticket-Out” (TITO) and “Card-Based Cashless” (CBC) technology on existing machines.
This technology nullifies the need for players to carry cash or coin from one pokie to the next, making the process of moving machines much more efficient.
The VCGLR website also posted a public input request page (https://www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/request-comment) where Victorians can voice their opinion on cashless gambling. That page will remain live until September 1 of this year.
Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Marlene Kairouz, who has been at the centre of several pokie controversies in recent months, issued the following statement on cashless pokies through her spokesperson:
“Cashless gaming has operated at Crown Casino for several years and we understand some pubs and clubs are interested in introducing this technology at their venues.
The independent VCGLR has developed draft standards for cashless gaming in anticipation of pubs and clubs wanting to introduce this technology and those standards are now open for public consultation.
We’re currently considering appropriate harm minimisation measures for cashless gaming as part of our broader review of gaming machine relations in Victoria.”
Predictably, critics of gambling expansion have decried the Andrews Government over the plan, asserting that cashless machines simply accelerate loss rates while leading to addictive habits.
Tony Mohr, who serves as executive director of the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), spoke to Pro Bono News while outlining his group’s opposition:
“Cashless gambling would make it much harder for poker machine users to keep track of how much they’re losing. It would increase the already devastating harm caused by poker machines.
The VCGLR or treasury has very likely already assessed how much poker machine losses would increase by if cashless gaming is given the green light. Minister Kairouz must disclose the additional losses that such a policy would cause.
While cashless gaming is ushered in quietly, Victorians are still waiting on the government to respond to several inquiries into harm reduction policies, months after they reported to the government.”
A section included on the VLGCR’s public input page attempts to preemptively dispute the problem gambling argument:
“It is intended that the introduction and operation of cashless gaming (TITO or CBC) in Victorian gaming venues be carried out with integrity, transparency (able to be audited), fairness (to players and venue operators) and reliability.
It is also intended that cashless gaming controls support responsible gambling.”
Mohr also objected to Kairouz’ conspicuously quiet rollout of the plan. The Minister held no press conference to announce that a consultation phase had begun, while the VLGCR made no public announcements aside from the single webpage.
Coupled with the short public input phase, which will last less than a month, Mohr accused the Andrews Government of attempting to shoehorn an unpopular policy into law without proper oversight:
“This is a really sneaky move by the government. One of our board members got a tip-off [on Tuesday] five days after it was floating around the VCGLR website.
It’s ridiculous. Anyone who wanted to make a comment or complaint about this would have next to no time in which to make a response. The industry knows all about it of course because they have been pushing for it for a while. This is a terrible process.
Slipping a new policy out under the mat, with the only notification being on the regulator website, is appalling policy making.”
Kairouz’ reticence to comment publicly on cashless pokies stands in stark contrast to her media blitz on August 11, when the Victorian government unveiled a new taxation scheme to target highly profitable machines and their operators.
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