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Victoria government introduces gambling reform bill

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
The Australian state of Victoria has introduced its previously announced gambling harms bill which, among other measures, would establish an enforced curfew for most pokies in the state.
Victoria gambling bill

Victoria’s minister for casino, gaming and liquor regulation, Melissa Horne, put forward the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 to the state’s parliament.

If the package of reforms is successful, a curfew will be enforced at most Victorian electronic gaming machine venues from mid-2024.

This would bar hotel and bar patrons from accessing pokie areas between 4am and 10am. The law would only permit casinos to allow punters to play between these times.

The Victoria government said it introduced this measure of the gambling bill to prevent the common practice of staggered opening hours. It argued some venues do this to encourage customers to move between venues in an area in order to continue gambling.

Other reforms comprise the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play for all pokie machines. The government will cap load-up limits at AU$100 and slow spin speeds to reduce the pace of games.

The government said it intends to consult with industry for these measures as part of an implementation working group.

Reforms follow Crown scandal

The government first announced its intention to implement the reforms in July. This came in the wake of a high-profile scandal and inquiry at Australian casino giant Crown Resorts’ Melbourne property.

The Royal Commission inquiry, which was led by Ray Finkelstein AO QC, made 33 recommendations to the government, which were then passed. This followed the report finding the operator “unsuitable” to hold a casino licence in the state of Victoria.

“Our previous reforms have delivered stronger oversight of the gambling industry in Victoria with a regulator unafraid to hold venues to account – now we’re doing more important work to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm,” said Horne.

“We’ve seen predatory behaviour from some venues, allowing people to keep gambling for hours, at any hour. Closing gaming areas between 4am and 10am will give people an important break to reassess and walk away.”

Victoria gambling bill expands government powers

Also on the slate would be a more general expansion of the gambling minister’s powers. The minister would have more scope to prohibit betting on activities considered harmful by the government, such as sports played by minors.

The bill also includes measures designed to enable the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission to better deal with casinos that lose their licence.