ACT News

ATM industry urges ACT government to scrap $250-a-day withdrawal limit in clubs

The ATM industry urged the ACT this week to scrap its $250-a-day withdrawal limit in clubs, describing it as a blunt instrument that targeted everyone visiting clubs, not just problem gamblers.

Poker machines are in the spotlight at the ACT Assembly inquiry.
Poker machines are in the spotlight at the ACT Assembly inquiry. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Andrew Wingrove, from the Independent ATM Industry Group, said transactions had fallen 10 to 19 per cent in clubs since the introduction of the $250 limit, impacting the ability of ATM companies to provide cash to people who weren't problem gamblers and people in regional areas. Outside clubs, ATM transactions were down 8 to 12 per cent.

While his group supported no ATMs on the gaming floor and harm-minimisation messages on machines, it did not support the daily limit on withdrawals.

"Any evidence that links the level of problem gambling to the presence of ATMs in gaming venues is inconclusive," he said, speaking at the ACT Assembly inquiry into the clubs industry.

Seventy-six per cent of people withdrew money to buy food, 70 per cent drinks, 70 per cent to spend outside the club, and just 35 per cent for gambling, he said. ATMs were a convenient, safe and secure way to access cash, especially after dark.

ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar told the inquiry the number of poker machines should not be increased with growth in the population, as the government has recently moved to do. She suggested a monthly licence fee for machines to encourage clubs to reduce numbers.

The community bore the cost of problem gambling, with between six and 10 people harmed by every problem gambler, and the contributions from clubs did not contribute in any substantial way towards paying for that, she said.

ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar: Clubs should not be rewarded for contributing to a problem their ...
ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar: Clubs should not be rewarded for contributing to a problem their poker machines create. Photo: Jay Cronan

A generous estimate of the amount contributed by clubs to problem gambling was $2000-$5000 a year. Poker machines could earn up to $1200 an hour, and even at one-tenth that amount, a machine making $120 an hour would recoup a $5000 donation to problem gambling in just 42 hours.

Only 15 per cent of club revenue went to the community, much of it to their own sporting codes, and in return clubs received concessional taxes and leases and free advertising on sports uniforms and the like.

They should not get further concessions for making contributions to problem gambling, given the amount of poker machine spending that came from problem gamblers – an estimated 40 per cent or more.

Clubs had concessional leases (leases at less-than-market rate) because of their support for the community, and there was a cruel irony in the financial harm done to families as a result of problem gambling. "Even a relatively low spend on gambling can mean the difference between a low wage worker keeping up or getting behind on rent and other essential bills," Ms Helyar said. "Money spent on gambling conceivably robs these people of a modest meal out at the local club."

While clubs should be helped to shift from reliance on gambling, they should only keep concessional leases if they continued to deliver a social dividend for the benefit of low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged residents. Any entry into housing, aged care and childcare should not be in competition with others with a track record in those areas, she said.

Poll