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Victoria is joining New South Wales in enacting limits on pokies. A new plan announced last week will enact limits on live pokies, including decreased load-up limits, mandatory carded play, and strict closing hours. These new limits are intended to reduce gambling harm. However, some think that the limits stop short of their intended goals.
Last week, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Gaming Minister Melissa Horne revealed multiple reforms for gambling machines across the state. The changes are intended to reduce gambling harm and prevent staggered opening times by venues.
The new reforms will require carded play from players and for players to set pre-commitment limits. This means that players will use cards that will be linked to their identity. Players must indicate how much they are willing to lose before each gaming session.
Next, poker machines will have a reduced load-up limit. The current limit is $1,000, but that limit will now be a drastically lower $100. Also, poker machines will have a slower spin rate. Pokies will be required to have a spin rate of at least three seconds per game.
Finally, most gaming venues will have a mandatory curfew for pokies. Gaming machines must be closed from 4 am to 10 am. The exception is live casinos like Crown Melbourne. The curfew will be enacted starting in mid-2024.
Premier Andrews spoke on the reforms, stating, “These reforms will provide the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia – we owe it to all Victorians to take this stance and help those experiencing harm turn their lives around.
I look forward to the implementation working group’s input and effort.”
Premier Andrews calls the new forms some of Australia’s strongest gambling harm prevention measures. However, some feel that the reforms do not do enough. According to The Guardian, some harm reduction advocates believe that the reforms do not do enough to help problem gamblers.
Deakin University gambling expert Professor Samantha Thomas believes that the new reforms do not support the evidence that shows that problem gamblers are more at risk after midnight. According to a recent Liquor and Gaming NSW report, two-thirds of those playing pokies before 8 am are at-risk or already problem gamblers.
According to the data, the key problem timeframes were from 2 am to 8 am. It showed that 22.8% of players were already problem gamblers, while 41.8% were at moderate risk of developing gambling problems. The data also indicates that from midnight to 2 am, 12.1% of bettors are problem gamblers.
Thomas questions why the government is choosing 4 am as the cut-off time instead of what the evidence suggests, as “venues should be closed after midnight.” She is not alone. Monash University gambling expert Dr Charles Livinstone doesn’t think there’s any evidence to support the proposed curfew.
Livingstone says, “By 4 am in the morning, most people who have a serious problem have already dug themselves in pretty deeply, and even if you send them home at 4 am the damage has been done.”
There are approximately 600 venues that offer pokies, and according to the study, 361 venues currently offer gaming past 2 am. Of those, only 107 venues offer gaming after 4 am. As such, the new curfew will only impact about 18% of the total venues in the region.
There are good and bad points to the curfew and the new regulations imposed. For starters, limits on play and deposits will help players to control their spending better. A slower spin rate will further support these limits. We always advocate that players take their time gambling to better enjoy the experience and spend less.
However, the curfew is a bit limited in scope. The old saying “nothing good happens after 2 am” does apply to gambling. While closing pokies from 4 am to 10 am is a good start, the government would be wise to expand that time frame. Closing at midnight may not be the best option, especially on the weekends.
A 2 am closure would be a good compromise. It would help protect the most susceptible to problem gambling while allowing the late-night crowd to have their fun. Even if the new measures are not perfect, they are a step in the right direction to making gambling safer in the region.