CANBERRA GAMBLING REFORM ALLIANCE CALLS FOR URGENT REFORM TO ATM LAWS TO INCLUDE EFTPOS FACILITIES TO REDUCE GAMBLING HARM
The Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance is calling for urgent action to close the EFTPOS loophole in ACT clubs after the release of a damning investigation into the practices in clubs which found that venues are actively encouraging patrons to access cash through alternative means to ATMs.
“While the practices uncovered through the investigation are not technically breaching the law, they are clearly out of step with intent of the legislation. There is strong evidence that limiting access to cash in gambling venues reduces the money lost on the pokies by consumers who are at risk of gambling harm,” said Rebecca Vassarotti, co-chair of the Alliance.
“These results are stark evidence of what is common knowledge in the community. They demonstrate that the current regulations fail to offer adequate protection to users of products that we know are harmful. In addition, it is clear that clubs have been actively and persistently exploiting a legal loophole in the current legislation and seem contemptuous of the measures that have been put in place to reduce gambling harm.
“It appears that when industry discovered that the legislation did not include access to cash via EFTPOS facilities, clubs began providing patrons using poker machines with access to cash inside venues through other means –some clubs have introduced EFTPOS facilities that are designed to have the look and feel of ATMs and are designed primarily to encourage patrons to access cash for the purpose of playing the pokies. Surely this is not okay. EFTPOS rules should mirror the rules for ATMs.”
“This investigation has shown that clubs cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. The voluntary code of practice that was introduced in 2015 is an abject failure. Time and time again, when clubs have been asked to choose between the profits and the safety of their members, they have chosen profit. That is why we are calling on the Government to legislate to protect Canberrans from harmful poker machines. ”
“We welcome the belated recognition from some elements of the clubs industry that they have a role to play in reducing gambling harm. But the measures they advocate like better staff training will not solve this problem. If clubs are serious about protecting their customers, they will support our call for this loophole to be closed and introduce measures that are based on evidence. This is the only way that clubs can demonstrate to the community that they are prepared to be part of the solution.”
“The Government is to be commended for their concern about the findings of this report. Eight-six per cent of CAnberrans support having daily limits on cash withdrawals in gambling venues. The Government can be confident that they will be supported by the electorate if they act to close this loophole and protect the community. We hope they move quickly to close this loophole and prevent more families being damaged by harmful gambling machines,” Ms Vassarotti concluded.
CGRA is an Alliance of community organisations and individuals who are actively calling for significant reform of gambling legislation to reduce gambling harm. In addition to aligning the rules for ATMs and EFTPOS in venues, they are also calling for a halving of pokies in a decade, the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment in all venues, $1 bet limitations on all machines and an overhaul of the community contributions scheme.
Media Comment can be sought from Alliance Members: Jeremy Halcrow: 0437321451;
Chris Endrey: 0401441946; Rebecca Vassarotti: 0408668963