Pokies bill draws final crossbench challenge
The government's pokies reforms face a last-minute challenge from the crossbench. Photo: Josh Robenstone
THE government's long-awaited poker machines reforms are facing a last-minute challenge from the crossbench, with a push to give pokies venues longer to comply with new rules.
The government's pokies reforms would require venues with more than 20 machines to have voluntary pre-commitment on all its machines from 2016, with smaller venues given longer. There would also be a $250 ATM withdrawal limit in gaming venues.
The industry has argued that deadlines are too hard and too expensive to meet.
Fairfax Media understands MP Craig Thomson, who sits as an independent, is seeking meetings with the government and opposition to discuss amendments, which include a plan to remove rules to make all machines ''mandatory ready'' - forcing punters to set limits.
Those amendments would almost certainly anger the Greens and Andrew Wilkie, who reluctantly back the reforms.
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.
Proposed amendments would also push for ATMs to be exempt from withdrawal limits if the machines offered self-exclusion for punters, a system where people could lock themselves out of an ATM.
Mr Thomson and others have expressed concern that the bill is too costly for industry and smaller clubs to comply with.
Clubs Australia backs voluntary pre-commitment. Its executive director, Anthony Ball, said the majority of clubs simply did not have the financial capacity by 2016 to switch to voluntary pre-commitment.
The Coalition is yet to decide its position on the govern- ment's bill and will discuss it at Tuesday morning's party room meeting.