New pokies reform bill explained

Posted by
1st November 2012

CORRECTION: In our email we mistakenly said that the legislation was passed today. In fact the legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives today. With the support of the Greens and key independents it will likely be passed by both houses before the end of the year.

Yesterday the Federal Government announced watered down legislation on poker machine gambling. Wondering what it’s all about, and how it’s different to the pokies reform that GetUp has been campaigning for? Here’s what you need to know.

Image via AAP


- These reforms came about after the Government reneged on its deal with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. At the time, GetUp called the reforms “worse than nothing.” At its core is another trial of technology that has already failed (voluntary pre-commitment).

- Pre-commitment has been set up to fail. It can be easily circumvented by a determined addicted gambler. And in trials of voluntary pre-commitment very low numbers of gamblers chose to use it. There are two type of pre-commitment: mandatory pre-commitment and voluntary pre-commitment.

- Mandatory pre-commitment requires a gambler to nominate how much they are prepared to lose in a gambling session and when they reach that amount they can no longer play.

- Voluntary pre-commitment allows but does not require gamblers to set limits and does not end play when those limits are reached.

- Dollar bets are the effective solution, but they aren’t in the legislation. At the moment addicted gamblers can lose as much as $15,000 on a poker machine. Dollar betting limits would reduce that to a maximum of $120 an hour. That would immediately make a massive difference to addicted gamblers.

- 40% of gambling revenue comes from problem gamblers so it isn’t possible to fix problem gamblers without the gambling industry taking a hit.

Key parts of the package:

- All new poker machines will need to have pre-commitment technology from 2013.
- Voluntary pre-commitment, which gives gamblers the option to decide at the start of play how much they want to gamble, will be in place from 2016.
- Mandatory pre-commitment, which requires gamblers to nominate how much they are willing to lose at the start of play and limits their gambling to that amount, will be trialled in the ACT in 2013 and reviewed in 2014.
- Electronic warnings on machines will be in place from 2016.
- $250 withdrawal limits on ATMs in hotels and clubs.
- The technological changes make it possible to activate mandatory pre-commitment in the future but there’s no commitment to that now.
- The creation of a new gambling regulatory body
- establishment and funding for the National Gambling Research Commission

But here’s the most important things for you to know:

1 – The gambling industry is pretty happy with this legislation: a sure sign that it’s still rubbish.

2 – Our campaign focus on the biggest operators in the market – like Woolworths – is still crucial. Not only will it immediately start to reduce the blight of problem gambling, but it will also mean there are companies actually lobbying for reform as this fight continues.

3 – The reforms are a long way from what the Productivity Commission recommended to reduce the harm of problem gambling. The legislation doesn’t adopt the most effective measures recommended by the government’s own independent policy advisers.

When government makes some change, however inadequate, it’s natural to feel a little relieved that at least something is being done. But GetUp isn’t just about change, it’s about making change that make a difference. We’re working on next steps to the pokies campaign now, and we’ll be in touch with you about it soon.

Further reading

At a glance – Pokies reform laws – SBS

Perspectives on the pokies reform bill – ABC

‘Weak’ pokie reform law to go ahead – SMH

Watered-down pokies reforms introduced to federal parliament
– Herald Sun

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  • Hadenough

    The Gillard Gov’t would have to be the weakest, most pathetic flip-floppers always making decisions on popularist and minimalist type motivations. The decision not to deal with pokies legislation and attempt to curtail Australia’s social gambling problem is as good as their efforts on pink batts, mining tax, carbon tax and border control. Start packing your things Julia & Wayne, your term is coming to an end sooner that you can imagine. Shame on you both for not having the courage to deal with pokies gambling

  • Peter

    I’m no gambler – but the inaction of government and opposition to seriously address a significant social problem, to completely ignore their responsibilities in deference to powerful yet pathetic lobby groups, to not adopt a truly moral (dare I say Christian) and bipartisan position on this issue, makes me want to commit suicide. It’s depressing.

  • falkenhorst

    Greens 1 Labor 2 High flyer casinos per courtesy of the Liberals– isnt an answer either.

  • maureen

    I just lost my daughter to cancer. She also was a gambler. she hid a lot from me and until before she died I had no idea just how much she was involved. she told me beflore she died that when you are sitting in front of one of those machines no other thoughts go through your mind. All of your worries go and it is not the amount you are losing just the machine. I think that it is because they have manufactured these machines to entrapt you by all the lights and trains that whistles and the movements. It is just the same as the kids today with their gaming machines. Probably these kids might proceed to poker machines as these inventors will in the future develop more types of machines to appeal to the youth. These clubs are relying on gaming as most of the members today in the typical RSL clubs are of an aging population.

  • Frank

    That really was aTOUGH decision, the clubs and pubs must surely be shaking in their boots!! If we lost as many soldiers every week as we do people to suicide as a result of their pokier machine addiction, there would be a huge outcry and rightly so. Why the discrimination??

  • susan littlesmith

    Every true gambler goes to a poker machine knowing they will win.They will put money into the machine until they do win. When they have put all the money that they have through the machine, still not won? must find somemore money until that big win comes.The ONLY way to stop a compulsive gambler is too stop them from gambling. Gamblers anon works, all other systems fail. repeat ALL OTHER SYSTEMS FAIL. From daughter of compulsive gambler.
    Susan Littlesmith.

  • susan littlesmith

    Just shows how brain dead most labor pollies are. Watered down laws are no laws.

  • Dreams lost

    I sure hope that they pass this legislation!!! You see I am a victim of the problem gambler. I lost my husband 6 years ago to these incidious machines . We lost a future together after 33 years of marriage. He lost contact with family and friends,He lost his dignity and his work ethics and his health. I lost my best friend and at least $500,000.00 off my future retirement. I now work two jobs and at the moment am dreading the Melbourne cup day as it ….and his big win on that day was the start of my loss of future dreams.

  • Berry

    Sincere congratulations to the Get-Up team, every friend we have needs to read some of these terribly sad stories of so many people losing everything to problem gambling! Sign as many petitions to the Govt. as we can to help prevent more such disasters happening!!!

  • Hadenough 2

    Gillard is by far the PM for COMPROMISE, she would give anything away to stay in power. Labor traditionally has been the party for social justice reform – they have surely lost their way BIG TIME. Senator Nic Xenophon is one of the very few pollies that understands the insideous nature of pokies and gambling …and he stands up for reform almost on his own

  • Rational 1

    I think voluntary pre commitment is a foolish waste of time because problem gamblers have unrealistic ideas of the chances of winning. This distorted view is likely to carry over to the amount they set themselves.They can get cash advances elsewhere and lose thousands regardless of the $250 limit. These people constantly lie to themselves and others.

  • Rational 1

    I think voluntary pre commitment is a foolish waste of time because problem gamblers have unrealistic ideas of the chances of winning. This distorted view is likely to carry over to the amount they set themselves.They can get cash advances elsewhere and lose thousands regardless of the $250 limit. These people constantly lie to themselves and others.

  • Fred

    Shut down the pokies and they will just spend more time at the TAB or online poker machine websites.This is an education issue, taking away peoples right to play a pokie once in a while without harassment from pre-commitment technology every time they pull a lever is a bad move.

  • June

    I feel these gamblers have to admit to having a problem before they can be helped , cutting off poker machines will send them elsewhere to gamble

  • Robin

    “Problelm” (read addicted) gamblers suffer from a disease – a mental obsession and a physical compulsion. Pre-commitment will not resolve the issue – it is simply a band aid. Addicted gamblers can recover with the assistance of Gamblers Anonymous – should they have the willingness to give it a go.
    Robin –

  • Andrew

    Why hasn’t any attempt been made by GetUp to force the hand of the ALP in removing high turnover pokie machines at all Union Affiliated clubs in NSW?

  • Sue P

    While this legislation is far less reforming than has been sought previously, it does represent the thin edge of the wedge in removing control of pokies legislation from the states who are hopelessly addicted to pokies themselves. As such, it deserves support. Once it is passed, the time will come for further reforms.

  • Sue P

    To people who believe removing pokies will just force gamblers into other forms of gambling, I can say categorically that this does NOT happen. When South Carolina banned gaming machines in 1991 AND when Norway banned them briefly in 2007, there was NO increase in betting on other forms of gambling in either jurisdictions. Not only that, but within 3 months, the levels of people seeking help for gambling dropped to the level of help seeking there was prior to the introduction of the machines. The research is clear – people BECOME unwell when gambling on pokies, and it isn’t only psychologically disturbed people who become hooked.

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