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Victoria introduces sweeping new pokie reforms

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
On 16 July, Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews and the minister for casino, gaming and liquor regulation, Melissa Horne, announced a suite of new gambling reforms aimed at reducing harms from electronic gaming machines.
Crown Melbourne Victoria casino

Operators of electronic gaming machines, known colloquially as “pokies”, in Victorian retail and land-based venues are to face a suite of sweeping new responsible gambling and anti-money laundering reforms. These will include:

  • Mandatory pre-commitment limits;
  • Identity verification through carded play;
  • A reduced load-up limit;
  • Curfews in venues enforced between 4am-10am;
  • A reduced spin speed;

Premier Andrews said: “These reforms will provide the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia – we owe it to all Victorians to take this stance and help those experiencing harm turn their lives around.

“I look forward to the implementation working group’s input and effort.”

Mandatory pre-commitment limits

If the states passes the law, all pokies in the state will require mandatory pre-commitment limits. This will mean that pokies will ask players to enter how much they are prepared to lose before the play begins.

The rules also introduce carded play, meaning that a player’s identity will link to all their gambling activities.

The Andrews premiership said the measures would support both social responsibility and anti-money laundering efforts.

Load-up limits

Additionally, the government will cap the amount of money a player can put into an EGM at one time, known as the load-up limit, at AU$100 (£52.60/€60.40/US$67.80). This is a tenfold reduction from the current limit of AU$1,000.

The government will introduce these initiatives subject to consultation with industry and through an implementation working group.

The imposition of the new measures is to consider trials of similar restrictions in other jurisdictions, as well as the experience of Crown Melbourne, which will require both mandatory pre-commitment and carded play from the end of 2023.

Curfew to prevent staggered opening times

Other restrictions, which are not to be put out to consultation, will include a mandatory closure period for all EGMs in a venue enforced between 4am and 10am. The curfew, which will enter effect from mid-2024, will not apply to casinos.

The government said that the measure is designed to address recent evidence that some venues are implementing staggered opening hours to allow users to move between locations in an area to keep gambling.

The reforms will also slow the pace of EGMs, making it mandatory for all new machines to spin at a rate of three seconds per game.  

Findings of the Royal Commission

The government introduced the reforms following the findings of the Royal Commission inquiry into malpractice at Crown Melbourne.

In April 2022, the Commission found the casino “unsuitable” to hold a licence in the state. It did so on the basis that the casino engaged in conduct which was “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative”.

In the wake of the Commission’s report, Crown has continued to face regulatory scrutiny. Recent enforcement actions include an April AU$30m fine for breaches relating to its “blank cheque” policy and a AU$120m fine for responsible gaming failings.  

This is on top of a AU$80m fine the casino received the previous year. The fine resulted from failures with its use of China Union Pay processes.

Establishment of VGCCC

Following the inquiry, the government formed the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) to regulate gaming in the state.

The 2023 Victoria budget included AU$71m for the VGCCC to take on a larger role in gambling harm reduction. In this capacity it will take over most of the functions of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. This will take place from 1 July 2024.

“Everyone loses when it comes to gambling harm, and it’s not confined to money – people lose their relationships, their jobs and their wellbeing,” said Horne.

“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 reduce gambling-related harm.”

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