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Gaming machine reforms passed by Australian Capital Territory

| By iGB Editorial Team
Measure to force clubs to surrender poker machines passed by state Legislative Assembly

The Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has passed legislation that will see the state’s clubs forced to surrender poker machine licences from April 2019.

The Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 aims to reduce the number of poker machines permitted in the ACT to 4,000 by 2020. It sets out two dates at which the state’s sports, social and cultural clubs must surrender poker machines to the authorities, on April 1, 2019 and April 30, 2020.

Over these two days, every club in the state must surrender no more than 20% their poker machines. This will see the maximum number of machines reduced by around 1,000, fulfilling one of the ruling Labour Party's key pledges in the state's 2016 elections.

The legislation, which was introduced by Attorney General Gordon Ramsay on November 1, also increases the percentage of net gaming revenue that must be returned to community causes. From January 1, clubs must contribute 8.8% of revenue to such causes, an 0.8% rise.

The clubs must contribute 8% to charitable, recreational, social or cultural projects, fund entities looking to tackle substance misuse or addiction, contribute to womens’ sport or natural disaster relief. They may no longer use funding to support professional sports teams, after a report into how funds were being distributed revealed that the majority of money was going to these bodies.

Ramsay amended the bill to require clubs to declare donations to political parties, and introduced a cap of 2% that can be given by larger clubs to such bodies. Those that fail to contribute the full 8% to relevant causes will be forced to pay 150% of the shortfall to the government for distribution.

Of the additional 0.8%, half will be used to fund gambling harm minimisation and addiction treatment. This will supplement the 0.75% Problem Gambling Assistance Levy clubs are already required by law to pay. The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission will advise the government on how these funds are to be spent.

The final 0.4% will be given to the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund, which is currently administered by Hands Across Canberra, a charity that raises funds for community service organisations.

The bill is now awaiting notification to the ACT Legislation Register, at which point it comes into effect.

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