ACT Gambling and Racing Commission Chief executive officer Greg Jones and Melvin Bartholomeusz. Photo: Melissa Stiles
Canberra clubs using eftpos technology to circumvent government-imposed ATM withdrawal restrictions are failing problem gamblers, the Salvation Army says.
Under ACT and federal laws in force since February 1, clubs with poker machines must impose a $250-a-day withdrawal limit on their ATMs.
But ACT Gambling and Racing Commission chief executive Greg Jones said there was anecdotal evidence that local clubs were increasingly making new eftpos machines available, which allowed patrons to withdraw more than that amount at the venues.
Jeff House - Chief Executive ClubsACT.
The technology, not covered by the laws, allows patrons to complete the withdrawal transaction with a club staff member, then have their money dispensed by the machine.
Salvation Army co-ordinator of problem gambling services Gerard Byrne said a daily cash limit should apply wherever money was withdrawn within a club with poker machines, including as part of retail transactions.
He said anything that circumvented harm reduction methods for problem gamblers was a major concern.
''What it says about the clubs is that they've taken their eye of the ball in relation to their responsibility for the harm that gambling is causing to the people who come and access [money] at their premises,'' he said.
ClubsACT chief executive Jeff House said clubs installed the eftpos machines because they were often the target of robberies and the technology allowed them to reduce the amount of money kept in tills.
Mr House said the machines were legal and differed from ATMs because patrons were required to speak with a staff member before withdrawing cash.
Mr Byrne said that placed the onus of responsibility on club workers, who may not be trained to intervene if they believed the customer was a problem gambler.
''Then we're relying on people who are hospitality workers to manage people with chronic and certainly well-pronounced gambling
problems,'' he said. Mr Byrne said a wide range of measures was needed to address gambling addiction, including machine down times and cash withdrawal limits at poker machine venues.
''The minute we begin to erode one of [the measures], we begin to erode the overall approach that's [being] put in place.''
Mr Jones said the commission was closely monitoring the situation.
ACT Minister for Gaming and Racing Joy Burch said she had sought advice from the commission on the issue, and she was looking at what other jurisdictions were doing about it.