Gamblers in Victoria will be required to decide how much they’re willing to lose on electronic gaming machines or ‘pokies’ before they start gambling in a new crackdown.
The mandatory ‘pre-commitment’ is part of a set of new gambling restrictions announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
The move has been welcomed by anti-gambling advocates, but the state’s clubs lobby has voiced concerns.
Australians lose more to gambling each year per person than any other population in the world, largely due to the prevalence of pokies.
Victorians lose about $7 billion a year to gambling, and more than 300,000 people in the state suffer harm as a result of gambling.
In Victoria, pokies can be accessed at Crown Casino and at licensed venues across the state (e.g. pubs and clubs).
Crackdown on Crown Casino
The Victorian Government has already restricted pokies use at Crown Casino following a 2021 Royal Commission.
The Commission concluded Crown was not fit to hold a casino licence and accused it of “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” conduct, including harbouring criminal activity and taking advantage of vulnerable gamblers.
In response, the Government restricted the amount of time gamblers could spend at Crown and required gamblers to set binding limits for how much they were willing to lose – a system called mandatory pre-commitment.
Pre-commitment is sometimes called ‘cashless gaming’ because it typically uses special cards to enforce limits.
Anti-gambling advocates have called mandatory pre-commitment the “gold standard” of gambling reform. Victoria is the second Australian jurisdiction to commit to the policy, after Tasmania.
The former Perrottet Government in NSW promised a similar policy ahead of last year’s election, which it lost. The Minns Government is instead trialling the idea.
The Government announced yesterday it would expand mandatory pre-commitment to all pokies machines in Victoria after first undertaking “thorough consultation” with the industry. It did not indicate a timeline for introducing the change.
The Government will also mandate closure periods between 4am and 10am for all pokies except at the Crown.
Further restrictions include reducing the amount that can be put into a machine at once from $1,000 to $100.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews claimed the restrictions would be “the strongest gambling harm [policies] in Australia”.
The Opposition said it was supportive of gambling harm minimisation but would await further detail before deciding a position.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform welcomed the reforms, calling them “meaningful and significant”.
“We still need to see all of the details, but this will go a long way towards minimising gambling harm in our community,” Chief Advocate Reverend Tim Costello said.
He called on NSW to follow Victoria’s lead with a tougher pokies crackdown, labelling the Minns Government’s cashless trial “unnecessary and shambolic”.
Community Clubs Victoria, the clubs lobby group, did not directly oppose the move but said it was “concerned about hyper-regulation”.
It claimed the industry had already taken steps to be “socially responsible,” including by allowing gamblers to self-exclude.