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Capital pokies trial left for dead

Date

Lisa Martin

ACT clubs have voted to delay a trial of poker machine precommitment technology until after the federal election.

ACT clubs have voted to delay a trial of poker machine precommitment technology until after the federal election. Photo: John Woudstra

In a blow to the Gillard government the ACT trial of precommitment technology for poker machines appears all but dead after ACT clubs voted against starting the pilot until after the September 14 poll date.

The Coalition, which doesn't support the mandatory precommitment measures for pokies, is likely to dump the trial if it wins government and on Thursday labelled the scheme an expensive ''thought bubble''.

Clubs ACT boss Jeff House said 23 of the organisation's members were unanimous in their decision. He said the group would continue to work with the current government on preparations for a trial, while admitting it may never happen.

''It would be a folly to expend the money and resources on starting the trial if it was only going to be cut halfway through by an incoming Coalition government,'' Mr House said. ''Far better to wait until the election result is known.''

Under the watered-down anti-gambling measures passed by Parliament last year, there was only a passing reference to the trial and no powers to compel clubs to participate.

A spokesman for ACT Gaming Minister Joy Burch said the government remained supportive of a precommitment trial, provided the local clubs were on board and the ACT lost no revenue.

In the meantime the ACT government would continue to work with Clubs ACT on other harm minimisation strategies.

Mr House blamed Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the Greens' interference for delaying the trial, which was originally due to start this month.

Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews said the trial was completely dead.

''Labor's betrayal of Andrew Wilkie is complete,'' Mr Andrews said.

''The question Labor must now answer is how much money has been wasted on this thought bubble.''

Anti-gambling campaigner and Independent senator Nick Xenophon described the clubs' decision as a ''cynical self-serving move to stall reform''.

''They were the ones that ran an hysterical fear campaign that caused the delay in the first place,'' he said. ''I've got to give Clubs ACT full marks for sheer brashness. They're reinventing history.''

Senator Xenophon said there could be a silver lining, with focus now shifting to the alternative $1 maximum bets concept.

''The industry doesn't tell tall stories; they tell stall stories,'' Senator Xenophon said.

A spokesman for community services minister Jenny Macklin said the ACT trial had been ''delayed'' because of stalled negotiations to pass the federal legislation.

The spokesman said the government and Clubs ACT had started critical preparation work for the trial.

''We look forward to continuing to work with Clubs ACT and the ACT government on the trial,'' the spokesman said.

Mandatory precommitment technology requires gamblers to nominate the amount of money they are prepared to lose on high-loss machines, which can chew through $1200 an hour.

with Larissa Nicholson

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