Technology give gamblers choice

Las Vegas slot machines thumb Technology give gamblers choicePokies technology that allows players to choose whether or not to curb their spending is the best way to stop problem gambling, Victoria says.

Gaming ministers from around the country will meet in Canberra on Friday to discuss federal Labor’s plans to crack down on pokies, based on an agreement it made with independent MP Andrew Wilkie last year which helped it form a minority government.

One idea on the table is the introduction of a mandatory pre-commitment scheme, which would require patrons to nominate their maximum losses before they started gambling.

But Victorian Gaming Minister Michael O’Brien said that approach infringed on peoples individual rights.

He argued optional pre-commitment technology on every poker machine in the state, combined with the removal of ATMs from gaming venues from July 1 next year, made Victoria’s anti-gambling package tougher than the commonwealth’s.

‘We think we have a far more effective integrated package that will work, whereas the Wilkie deal is basically born of a quick political fix,’ Mr O’Brien told ABC Radio.

He vowed Victoria would not sign up to any reform plan today if it included mandatory pre-commitment technology.

Federal Families and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said she was pleased that at least there was consensus that pre-commitment technology was a useful tool.

‘That’s an important first step,’ she said.

But Victoria’s plan to keep the system purely voluntary wouldn’t be enough to stop problem gambling, Ms Macklin said.

That’s because even if someone uses the technology in the first instance, they can just take their pre-commitment card out of the machine and play on once they’ve reached their limit.

‘It’s not actually going to help the problem gambler,’ the minister said.

‘It’s like saying to people, ‘The seat belt is in your car but you don’t have to use it’.’

Ms Macklin said there were a number of anti-gambling strategies on the agenda for Friday’s meeting, such as pokies display warnings, club ATM restrictions and online betting.

‘We understand how important it is to act on a number of fronts,’ she said, adding there was still time for detailed consultations with the states on the issue.

The government has vowed to have the legislation ready by mid-next year, with Ms Macklin ‘hopeful’ all premiers and chief ministers will support it.

Labor will need the votes of key independents to have the draft laws passed in parliament, but Tony Windsor has already flagged his opposition to the scheme.

Ms Macklin said the government would keep talking with the crossbenchers and stressed how important it was to act on problem gambling.

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