By Ian Neubauer

The pokie lobby has lashed out at proposals to substantially limit the use and profitability of poker machines, saying it unfairly penalises responsible gamblers and will cost tens of thousands of jobs.

The statements follow a Victorian Senate Inquiry last week at which Family First Senator Steve Fielding offered testimony on pokie addiction to support his party’s Poker Machine Harm Minimisation Bill and the Poker Machine Reduction Tax Bill.

AHA chief executive, Bill Healey, said a 1999 productivity report on which the Senator rests his argument is out of date and does not take into account new measures and legislation that he claimed had drastically reduced pokie addiction in Australia.

“The AHA supports an evidence-based approach to policy making and legislative change, ” he said. “The last Productivity Commission report on gambling is now almost 10 years old and current research indicates that less than 1 per cent of Australians are problem gamblers.”

Gaming Technologies Association CEO, Ross Ferrar, said harm minimsation policies of the past were not evidence-based and did nothing but limit peoples’ ability to enjoy a lawful form of entertainment. 

“Australians deserve better than this. They deserve policy that will provide help if and when it’s needed – and leave the rest of the Australian public to enjoy a legitimate, legal form of entertainment, ” he said.

Clubs Australia CEO, David Costello, warned that a ban on pokies in clubs would cause the closure of hundreds of venues and the loss of more than 50,000 jobs in the state.

“There is no evidence to support Senator Fielding’s belief that problem gambling will simply disappear overnight by shutting down clubs,” he said. “Does Senator Fielding know that 20 per cent of online gamblers are problem gamblers and that just like poker machines, some people gamble too much on horses and greyhounds and sporting fixtures?”

Senator Fielding was unmoved by the arguments, insisting that more than half of money spent on pokies in Victoria comes from problem gamblers. “I don’t know how you sleep at night,” he said to the pokie lobby.

If approved in the Senate, the new bills would restrict poker machines in Victoria to racetracks and casinos, limit ATM withdrawal in gambling venues to $100 a day, introduce mandatory smart cards, place limits on bets and prizes and mandate a five second delay between spins, among other measures.
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