Pokie laws ‘threaten clubs’

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - SAM SMALLBONE

MOSS­MAN Bowls Club man­ager Kevin Rynne fears gam­bling lim­its on pok­ies could lead to a “big loss in a small town”.

Fed­eral anti-gam­bling MP Andrew Wilkie threat­ened to with­draw his sup­port for the Gil­lard La­bor Gov­ern­ment this week if an agree­ment was not made by Bud­get day next month.

Mr Wilkie wants tech­nol­ogy such as “smart cards” to even­tu­ally be in­stalled in ev­ery poker ma­chine in Aus­tralia which limit the amount gam­blers can spend.

“It’s a li­cence to gam­ble - you have to ap­ply for a ’”smart card’” and pro­vide your per­sonal de­tails to be is­sued one,” Mr Rynne said.

“His plan is to have ev­ery pok­ies ma­chine in Aus­tralia op­er­at­ing un­der the same sys­tem so when a per­son gam­bles they have to swipe their card in the ma­chine which tracks how much they spend.

“They have to set bet­ting lim­its be­fore they play the pok­ies and once they have reached that limit they are locked out of all of the pok­ies ma­chines in Aus­tralia.”

Mr Wilkie ar­gues the plan would cut the num­ber of prob­lems and at-risk pok­ies users, which is about 300,000 Aus­tralians.

Aus­tralia ac­counts for half of the world’s poker ma­chines with losses for play­ers es­ti­mated at $5 bil­lion an­nu­ally.

There are al­le­ga­tions that Mr Wilkie’s pro­posal may cause big­ger prob­lems for gam­blers in the fu­ture.

“The prob­lem is once they are locked out of the pok­ies ma­chines they have the abil­ity to gam­ble on­line us­ing their credit cards,” Mr Rynne said.

“So they could be gam­bling with money they haven’t even got.

“Also the in­fra­struc­ture will be in the bil­lions of dol­lars to run ev­ery poker ma­chine in Aus­tralia un­der the same sys­tem.”

He fears that the ex­tra costs will force many pubs and clubs in small towns to close down.

“Once a club closes down those fa­cil­i­ties in the com­mu­nity are lost and rarely come back,” Mr Rynne said.

“It will af­fect our com­mu­nity if we have to spend the amount of money be­ing es­ti­mated.

“It’s go­ing to im­pact on our prof­itabil­ity and the prof­its we have to sup­port the com­mu­nity.

“We have never re­ally put a fig­ure on it but it’s over $40,000 a year we put back into the com­mu­nity and we would prob­a­bly have to stop that - that’s a big loss in a small town.

“I sup­port any com­mu­nity ef­fort to make changes to gam­ing laws and habits but not over such a short pe­riod of time. The in­dus­try needs time to adapt rather than to cause in­dus­try wide havoc.

“I have faith in Aus­tralians - we are smarter than that.”

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has promised to in­tro­duce a manda­tory pre-com­mit­ment gam­bling scheme by 2014 as part of an agree­ment with Mr Wilkie to sup­port its mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

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