Federal Politics

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Coalition rejects government's pokie reforms

THE Coalition will oppose the federal government's long-awaited poker machine reforms arguing pokies regulation is a matter for states, and citing concerns about cuts to industry jobs.

At a meeting of Coalition MPs this morning the opposition decided to opposed the government's pokies reforms that require venues with more than 20 machines to have voluntary pre-commitment on all its machines from 2016, with smaller venues given longer.

The government's reforms also pave the way for a $250 ATM withdrawal limit in gaming venues, and a trial of mandatory precommitment – where punters are forced to preset how much they are willing to lose – in the ACT.

While the Coalition supports voluntary precommitment, it has consistently argued against mandatory precommitment, saying it ''won't work''.

Shadow families minister Kevin Andrews said the Coalition acknowledged that gambling is a major problem for some Australians  ''creating regulatory duplication and legislating in an area that falls within state responsibilities will not help problem gamblers.''


''Any response to problem gambling must recognise that many Australians gamble responsibly. Many Australians also rely on the sector for jobs,'' Mr Andrews said.

''We support voluntary pre-commitment, as do the states. Labor's approach depends on who they've done a political deal with and the day of the week. They betrayed Andrew Wilkie and now they've done another deal with the Greens.''

The industry has argued that the government's deadlines are too hard and too expensive to meet. The Coalition has also raised concerns about the timeline of the rollout.

Last year the opposition announced it had set up a taskforce to formulate the Coalition's problem gambling policy. It was due to report by February but nine months on it is still yet to be released. The taskforce’s discussion paper advocated voluntary precommitment and more access to counselling services.

The Coalition's decision came after independent Craig Thomson sought last-minute amendments to the bill to reduce the financial impact on clubs. Fairfax Media understands Mr Thomson has been speaking with other crossbenchers about amendments.

Mr Thomson's plan includes removing rules to make all machines ''mandatory ready'' - forcing punters to set limits.

Mr Thomson's other amendments would also require venues with 11 or more pokies to have pre-commitment technology on only 20 per cent of their machines by 2016, with every machine to have the system by 2022.

ATM withdrawal limits would apply 12 months after the law was given royal assent, not next May as planned.