By Andrew Starke
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, today (May 6) released details on the design and implementation of his proposed mandatory pre-commitment system for poker machines.
Wilkie said the tabling of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform’s first report was an important step towards historic reform with some of the details likely to be of great interest to publicans.
Mandatory pre-commitment will be introduced by 2014 and will require players to set their maximum loss before they start gambling and lock them out when they reach their limit.
Smaller venues with 15 machines or less will be given until 2018 to implement these reforms.
Wilkie strongly endorsed the report’s recommendation that the Productivity Commission suggestion be embraced that pokies venues be given the option of running less harmful low-intensity machines outside of mandatory pre-commitment.
"These would replace existing high-intensity machines and reduce average losses by 90 percent due to a $1 maximum bet and other features,’" Wilkie said.
"They would replace high-intensity machines and not lead to an increase in the total number of poker machines in Australia."
Wilkie said the reforms were not unaffordable in light of the pokies industry being willing to introduce voluntary pre-commitment, which would carry a similar implementation cost.
"Nor do they require a ‘licence to punt’ because the 88 percent of poker machine gamblers who currently bet no more than $1 a game can play the low-intensity machines outside of mandatory pre-commitment," Wilkie said.
However ClubsAustralia told TheShout that Wilkie’s admission that gamblers will need to register for a card to play a poker machine was an about-turn on previous statements and ‘ends an 8 month charade by he and (Independent Senator) Nick Xenophon’.
“Less than a month ago both men denied gamblers would need to register for a card to play the pokies and the existence of a national database for smartcard holders,” said ClubsAustralia spokesperson Jeremy Bath.
"Today’s report by Mr Wilkie confirms that any person who wants to play an existing poker machine at a pub, club or casino will need to register for a 'smartcard'.
ClubsAustralia is also unhappy that a recommendation by the Productivity Commission that mandatory pre-commitment technology should be trailed in one state or territory for an extended period of time has seemingly been ignored.
Calling the report ‘a dog’s breakfast’, ClubsAustralia executive director Anthony Ball said Wilkie was attempting to rewrite his agreement to support Julia Gillard.
“For months Andrew Wilkie has been threatening to force a federal election if his agreement with Julia Gillard was altered in any way,” he said.
“Yet today Andrew Wilkie is demanding an even more costly system than what the Prime Minister agreed to on September 3 last year.
“Clubs and pubs are still left to foot the bill for $3 billion in poker machine technology that doesn’t yet exist or for that matter help problem gamblers.
“Putting a prohibitionist in charge of gambling policy was only ever going to produce a report that punishes anyone who dares to play the pokies.”
A full version of today’s report and recommendations can be found here.