By Clyde Mooney

The Joint Select Committee, headed by the Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has released its first report on recommendations for policy concerning poker machines and gaming in Australia.

Far from the no-compromises diatribe heard as Wilkie wielded unprecedented influence over the 2010 Federal election, the JSC represents a panel of a dozen members of parliament and a wider perspective.

The Committee cites the burden of gaming policy to weigh the risks of introducing ineffective measures, against failing to introduce measures that would or could have been effective.

The findings of the report mostly concerned the structure and implementation of the contentious Mandatory Pre-Commitment (MPC) scheme fixated upon by Wilkie.

The most significant point of compromise for MPC is undoubtedly the exclusion of ‘low-intensity’ machines, with a $1 bet maximum and $20 loading limit.

Although these machines will still need to be re-configured in some way in order to comply, their removal from plans for a national poker machine network represents a big step towards a realistic solution and potentially a big saving for gaming venues.

The implementation period of 2014 recommended by the report is said to be based on the natural replacement periods of machines and equipment.

For this reason, smaller venues operating fifteen or less machines will have an additional four years to comply, with 2018 recommended as deadline for the introduction of MPC or low-intensity alternatives (or both) in those establishments.

Wilkie has promoted the findings of the report, implying that rather than softening his declaration all machines would carry MPC or he would force another election, the reinterpretation of pre-commitment is a win for its critics.

“..nor do they require a ‘licence to punt’ because the 88 per cent of poker machine gamblers who currently bet no more than $1 a game can play the low-intensity machines outside of mandatory pre-commitment,’’ said Wilkie
Clubs Australia do not agree, seeing the JSC report as another nail in the coffin of the industry and finally an admission that players will indeed require a smart-card, widely labeled a ‘license to punt’.

“The cost of converting existing machines to low intensity is virtually the same as converting machines to mandatory pre-commitment technology. Recreational punters will have two options, either register for a card to play their favourite machine, or play a low-intensity machine where the most they can win is $500,” said Clubs Australia spokesperson, Jeremy Bath.

“The vast majority of clubs with 15 machines or less will have to replace them all over the next seven years.

“That is a bill of almost $400,000 for technology that will not reduce problem gambling and that will cut the venue’s existing income by more than 40 percent.

“The reality is the extended time frame simply adds an extra inch of rope to the noose Andrew Wilkie has placed around their necks.”


The Shout Team

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