Pokies reform a step towards fairer gaming

THE watered-down version of pokies reform was passed through Federal Parliament this week.

It was debated and reshaped and revised again, accounting for the interests of lobby groups.

But it was passed, meaning all new machines from the end of next year will need to have pre-commitment technology.

The fact the government has legislated to help tackle gambling addiction sets a good precedent.

Canberra’s legislation will eventually impact on central Victoria, where welfare agencies are saying whole communities are feeling the burden of problem gambling.

Central Goldfields residents spend more per head on pokies than any other part of rural Victoria, with about $10m a year going into the machines.

The 547 poker machines in Greater Bendigo netted $130,000 a day over 2011-12.

In Mount Alexander shire the pokies issue has become a defining, and divisive, debate. You only had to look at Baringhup town hall on Tuesday night.

The rural shed drew about 80 people passionately arguing for and against plans for a new gaming venue.

A common argument was the flow-on effects for the community when so much money was going into poker machines.

Others argued people should have the right to choose whether they can or can’t play the pokies.

Eventually councillors voted to go ahead with its legal stoush in VCAT.

Mayor Michael Redden said it wasn’t a matter of being confident they would win the appeal, but that the impact of problem gambling was far too big an issue not to act on.

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