Pokie laws ‘threaten clubs’
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.