Australian ‘hokey’ pokie reform

The figures are damning. Six hundred thousand Australians play poker machines at least once a week and 95,000 of those are problem gamblers who lose an average of $21,000 a year. Sadly, these figures are not surprising when you consider that Australia has the highest number of poker machines per capita in the world. When you consider that pokies are banned in Western Australia, this figure is sickening. The deal between Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Prime Minister Julia Gillard first called for the implementation of mandatory pre-commitment and a maximum $1 bet limit on poker machines. This has been reneged upon in the last week with a watered-down version of reforms tabled by the Federal Government.

What is mandatory pre-commitment?
Before players start gambling on a poker machine, they must set their own daily limit.

Why mandatory pre-commitment would work
The majority of poker machine users know the limit they are willing to lose. For whatever reason, when they have lost this amount, the urge to withdraw another $50 from the ATM is too hard to resist. Mandatory pre-commitment helps the player set that limit and stick to it.

What would it mean for casual poker players?
Owing to the need to pre-commit and the hassle of the details, the number of casual poker players who have a few dollar coins in their pocket and want to have a quick go on the pokies would significantly decrease.

Why did the clubs run such a fierce campaign against poker reform?
Australians lose $12 billion a year on pokies and the clubs of Australia (excluding WA) have become dependent on this ‘easy’ money.

What is the revised plan the Federal Government has announced?
Not all has been lost: a year-long trial will be introduced from 1 January 2013 in ACT to test the pre-commitment technology and all new machines installed will have to be fitted with pre-commitment technology from 2013. All existing machines will have to be upgraded to include pre-commitment technology by 2016 but there is no guarantee that this technology will be implemented after the trial.

The one major win is that a $250 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs in gaming venues, excluding casinos, will be implemented by 1 February, 2013.

Read Drew’s blog on poker machine reforms.
Read more about the impact of problem gambling and how to seek help.
Read more about the importance of poker machine reforms.
Show your support for poker reforms by signing a petition.

Do you know someone who has been directly affected by problem gambling? Do you feel poker reforms are a move in the right direction or just another ‘Nanny State’ reform?

Do you feel that Julia Gillard’s watered down version of poker machine reforms is sufficient?