UNDER SCRUTINY: A woman tries her luck on a pokie machine.
UNDER SCRUTINY: A woman tries her luck on a pokie machine. DAN PELED

Pokie machine threat to clubs and pubs

TWIN Towns Services Club general manager Rob Smith has slammed a push to implement $1 maximum bets on all poker machines, claiming the cost will force clubs and pubs across the nation to close their doors.

Crossbenchers Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie have, in the wake of the Federal Election, reignited calls for restrictions to be placed on poker machines as part of a proposed wide-ranging review of the gambling industry.

As part of the proposal, poker machines operators would be forced to introduce additional technology to limit single bets to $1 and losses per hour to $120.

Mr Smith said early estimates were that it would cost the industry $3 billion with about 60% of poker machines needing to be replaced if the controversial proposal is introduced.

Figures released by the Gaming Technologies Association indicate 64% of machines in pubs and clubs would be too outdated to accept the new software needed to limit bets on machines.

“We’re looking at potentially $3 billion,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s unachievable for the industry. The vast majority of older machines reside in the smaller clubs and there is no way they could contemplate replacing those machines at $25,000 a unit.

“The proposal as put forward would impact every club and and most would likely go out of business.

“It would have a dramatic effect on the industry and the communities they serve.”

The bill was introduced unsuccessfully in 2014 but with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expected to face a hostile Senate, Mr Xenophon has called on government to take responsibility for problem gambling.

“Gambling reform needs to be put back on the agenda,” he said.

“This is an issue that will not go away. There are 400,000 people with a severe gambling addiction or well on the way to getting one.”

Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball said the proposal would not provide a solution, claiming most problem gamblers bet in amounts less than $1.

“The economic, social and employment costs of this policy thought-bubble from Xenophon and Wilkie are even more astounding when you consider that the majority of problem gamblers bet less than $1 per spin,” he said.

Mr Smith agreed the proposed restrictions would have little impact on problem gambling.

“It’s completely inappropriate to restrict one level of gambling and not others,” he said.

“It’s nonsensical to say a pokie machine in a club should have a $1 limit when people can gamble any amount they like elsewhere.”