Victorian lawmakers propose new gambling reforms for pokies

Pokies news

In a significant move to safeguard Victorians from the perils of gambling, the Allan Labor government has taken its first stride towards implementing pioneering reforms.

This week, the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Melissa Horne, presented the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 to Parliament. This legislation will enforce mandatory closure periods for all pokies gaming machine areas in venues, excluding the casino, from 4am to 10am daily.

This proactive measure addresses evidence suggesting that some venues manipulate their opening hours, enticing patrons to shift between nearby establishments to continue gambling once one venue closes. Providing individuals with a respite in gameplay serves as a crucial prevention strategy against gambling-related harm.

It affords them the opportunity to pause, reflect on their decisions, and consider whether they are willing to risk further monetary losses. The mandatory closures are slated to take effect by mid-2024.

The bill also extends the Minister’s authority to prohibit harmful betting on activities occurring beyond Victoria’s borders, including sports involving minors. This extension empowers the government with greater control over betting activities not aligned with the public interest.

Prompted by disconcerting revelations uncovered by the Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne and its problematic operational practices, the government swiftly moved to enact the Commission’s 33 recommendations.

The bill bolsters these efforts by streamlining processes for the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission to manage the Crown casino property in the event it opts to withhold a casino licence. It also ensures that mandatory pre-commitment and carded play systems will apply universally across the casino, encompassing table games.

As of December 2023, any individual engaging with a gaming machine at the casino will be obligated to track their play using the pre-commitment system, YourPlay. By December 2025, this requirement will extend to table games like poker and baccarat, necessitating the development of new table game technology.

This bill aligns with the government’s commitment in July 2023 to introduce comprehensive reforms, establishing the most robust gambling harm protections in the nation.

The reform package encompasses mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play for all electronic gaming machines, capped load-up limits of $100, and a reduction in spin rates to moderate game pace. Industry consultations will be sought as part of an implementation working group.

“Our previous reforms have delivered stronger oversight of the gambling industry in Victoria with a regulator unafraid to hold venues to account – now we’re doing more important work to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm,” Minister Horne said.

“We’ve seen predatory behaviour from some venues, allowing people to keep gambling for hours, at any hour. Closing gaming areas between 4am and 10am will give people an important break to reassess and walk away.”