By James Atkinson

The Federal Government's 2016 deadline for introducing voluntary pre-commitment technology on poker machines does not provide sufficient time for venues to comply, argues Clubs Australia.

Under the terms of legislation introduced into parliament yesterday, all 198,000 poker machines in Australia must include technology that offers the gambler the option of pre-setting a limit that if reached, locks them out for a period of 24 hours.

An Australian Hotels Association (AHA) spokesman yesterday told TheShout the AHA has yet to see the legislation. 

"We will need to examine the Bill thoroughly before making further comment," he said.

But Clubs Australia said that while it is broadly supportive of voluntary pre-commitment technology, the law means that in 2016 many clubs will be forced to spend millions of dollars replacing machines that they had not budgeted to replace for many years to come.

"A fairer method would be to require all new poker machines be equipped with voluntary pre-commitment but to allow all remaining machines to be phased out of their natural life cycle," said executive director of Clubs Australia, Anthony Ball.

"The Productivity Commission in its support for voluntary pre-commitment proposed a timeline of six years. While this is itself too short for many clubs, it would be a sufficient time for the majority of clubs to fast track the replacement of their poker machines."

The ACT clubs lobby, meanwhile, has warned that the long delay in finalising Labor's gambling package puts the territory's proposed trial of mandatory pre-commitment technology in doubt, with a federal election coming next year.

In deciding whether it should sign-off on the pilot scheme, chief executive Jeff House warned ClubsACT would be mindful that it could be swiftly axed by a new Coalition government, according a report by The Australian newspaper.

But Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) CEO Ross Ferrar told TheShout that in any case, the ACT field trial has no chance at all of starting in February 2013 because the ACT has no centralised monitoring system and there are no field trial specifications.   

"It will take at least a year from when specifications are agreed, for the first redeveloped game to be approved and available," he said.

Ferrar added that the measures contained in the legislation put forward by Labor would not assist problem gamblers.

"A problem gambler who can afford to spend $5 but spends $10 is still a problem gambler," he said.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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