Rockliff Rolling Out Mandatory Pre-Commitment in Venues

September 20, 2022
Clyde Mooney

A shock announcement has the spectre of pre-commitment in gaming rooms back on the floor, after the Rockliff Liberals in Tasmania outlined the upcoming scheme to reduce money through poker machines.

People will be required to use a mandatory cashless card to play machines, set to default limits of $100 per day, and $500 per month. Punters will reportedly be able to adjust these amounts up or down, or use the cards to self-exclude.  

There is also a hard limit of $5,000 per year, but to increase this, users will have to provide evidence they have the necessary financial means. 

The new system is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2024.

It comes as government data reported $178 million put into EGMs in pubs, clubs and casinos in Tasmania during FY22. Tasmania’s latest gambling economic and impact study cites most “problem gamblers” have (median) annual spend of $3,600, and the median figure for daily spend is $200. 

During the 2018 state election, the Liberal Party campaigned against Labor’s pledge to phase out poker machines from pubs and clubs, for which it was subsequently accused of being “awash” with donations from industry stakeholders, most notably a Federal Group campaign contribution of more than $300k.

There is also a hard limit of $5,000 per year, but to increase this, users will have to provide evidence they have the necessary financial means. 

The new system is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2024.

It comes as government data reported $178 million put into EGMs in pubs, clubs and casinos in Tasmania during FY22. Tasmania’s latest gambling economic and impact study cites most “problem gamblers” have (median) annual spend of $3,600, and the median figure for daily spend is $200. 

During the 2018 state election, the Liberal Party campaigned against Labor’s pledge to phase out poker machines from pubs and clubs, for which it was subsequently accused of being “awash” with donations from industry stakeholders, most notably a Federal Group campaign contribution of more than $300k.

The motion received fierce backlash from the advocates, and the Liberals ruled out the plan should they be returned to power.

But responding to criticism of failing to do enough to minimise gambling harm, the government tasked the regulator with investigating options, including a pre-commitment scheme and facial recognition technology. 

A report by the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission has now been released, and the scheme is being celebrated by anti-gambling lobbyists as an Australian-first.

The state government under Jeremy Rockliff plans to accept the regulator’s recommendations and is already fending off the anticipated response by emphasising that industry will be part of consultation before the system begins and through the transition, as it creates what it believes will be the “gold standard” of harm minimisation measures. 

“The scheme will provide those that are at the most risk of gaming harm with protection, in many cases the best,” states Treasurer Michael Ferguson, “while having little impact, and I would argue no impact, on recreation or casual gamblers at all.”

In 2012 a mandatory pre-commitment scheme was proposed at a national level under the leadership of then minority government prime minister Julia Gillard, in response to pressure from Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie and South Australia’s Nick Xenophon.  

A concerted and coordinated response by the hospitality and gaming industries, voicing concerns over how mandatory systems would affect casual players, compliance, and the cost of retro-fitting systems, brought an end to the proposed bill.

Boded as the thin edge of the wedge for other states to follow, a similarly vocal campaign is anticipated in response to this announcement.

“I do expect a bit of noise around this issue,” notes Ferguson. “And I expect that there’ll be times along the next two years where there will be issues that we have to sort through.”


Tags

gaming, pre-commitment, Tasmania


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