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Gamblers to hit pause after pokies reforms

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Grace Frost
Grace Frosthttps://www.grace.com
Hi, I'm Grace. This is my Bio. I just love to write!

By Grace Frost

Wallan Gamblers Anonymous has welcomed the State Government’s new gambling reforms but says more needs to be done to address online gambling.

The new electronic gaming machine, EGM, reforms include mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play, capped load-up limits, mandatory closure periods and slower spin rates on new EGMs, together expected to reduce gambling-related harm throughout the region.

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Premier Daniel Andrews announced the crackdown, dubbing it ‘the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia’.

The reforms follow a sharp spike in EGM player losses in the region.

In the City of Whittlesea, losses totalled $147.4 million in 2022-23, an increase of more than $42.5 million from the previous financial year.

EGM losses in the Mitchell, Murrindindi and Mansfield shires also skyrocketed post-pandemic, totalling $23.4 million in 2022 – a 12.27 per cent increase from the $20.8 million lost in 2019.

Hogan’s Hotel, Wallan, is one of six gaming venues in the Mitchell Shire.

When the reforms are implemented, mandatory pre-commitment levels will see patrons mandated to decide on the amount of money, and potentially time, they intend to spend on EGMs before gambling.

Mandatory carded play will ensure EGM play is linked to a patron’s identity, which the government claim will stop money laundering through gaming venues.

The amount of money a player can put into an EGM at a time, ‘load-up limits’, will be capped at $100, down from the current limit of $1000.

Mandatory pre-commitment, carded play and load-up limits were issued for Crown Casino in May by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, and ordered to be implemented by December.

The reforms, however, will only be rolled out at other venues subject to ‘thorough consultation with industry through an implementation working group, taking into account trials in other jurisdictions and the experience at Crown Melbourne’.

Gaming machine areas in a venue, except the casino, will be forced to shut between 4am and 10am under the new reforms.

Some have expressed concerns about the liabilities of the reforms, with gamblers likely to travel out of Melbourne for unmandated EGM usage when Crown implements the reforms this year.

However, the region’s venues can put a timeline on expected closure periods, said to be mandated by mid-2024.

Gaming machine areas in a venue, except the casino, will be forced to shut between 4am and 10am to combat evidence that shows some venues have implemented staggered opening hours to allow users to move between venues in one area to continue gambling.

Currently, venues must shut for four hours daily, with specific hours unmandated.

New EGMs will also be mandated to spin at a rate of three seconds per game, up from 2.14 seconds, to slow the pace of losses.

Wallan Gamblers Anonymous, WGA, founder Jason Beale said the new reforms were ‘definitely a good start’ toward addressing gambling-related harm.

“It’s a positive start that the government actually want to do something about it,” he said.

“[Load-up limits down from] $1000 to $100 per machine – that’s pretty big. Obviously, you can’t sit around and put $1000 in one machine, which is good cause people get hooked on it.”

Despite the reforms being a step forward, Mr Beale said the mandates wouldn’t eliminate players gambling online, playing with cash or travelling to multiple venues.

“That’ll probably be another issue, where people start doing it online more,” he said.

“I know quite a few people who have done worse damage online.”

He said looking forward, cashless EGM usage would be a ‘massive game changer’.

Mr Beale hosts Wallan Gamblers Anonymous meetings every Monday from 7.30pm to 9pm at Wallan Neighbourhood House.

He said people should feel welcome to reach him on 0478 164 755 or visit the Gamblers Anonymous Australia website at gaaustralia.org.au for more information.

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