Epping Plaza Hotel and cash out
machine used in pokie venues. Image supplied January 12th 2014

The PosConnect system helps gamblers access cash.

One of Victoria's most popular poker machine venues has been accused of making a mockery of the state government ban on ATMs by heavily promoting an alternative cash withdrawal service.

The Epping Plaza Hotel raked in $21 million from poker machines last financial year, making it the top-earning venue in Victoria. It is located in the City of Whittlesea, where losses incurred by punters are 25 per cent higher than the state average.

In July 2012, the state government banned ATMs inside gaming venues, except at Crown Casino, in an effort to curb problem gambling.

As part of the ban, ATMs are not allowed in any part of a venue that also features electronic gaming machines.

But hotels and clubs have been circumventing the ban by using ''hybrid'' cash machines, including the PosConnect system installed at Epping Plaza Hotel.

Under the two-step process, users conduct an eftpos transaction through a staff member at a service counter and then insert their debit or credit card in a nearby cash-dispensing machine to pick up the money. The maximum withdrawal is $200 per transaction.

The machines are popular at pokie venues, including those of hospitality group ALH, which operates more than 5000 machines in Victoria.

The new cash-out system is prominently advertised inside the Epping Plaza Hotel, including a brightly coloured pop-up vertical banner and counter signs that offer ''Cash Out Here''.

Jemal Ahmet, spokesman for the Whittlesea Interagency Taskforce on Gambling, said the signs made a ''mockery'' of the ban by continuing to allow gamblers to withdraw large amounts of cash.

''The government needs to introduce laws to ban any cash withdrawals at pokie venues if they are serious about tackling problem gambling,'' he said.

''Self-regulations and responsible gambling codes of conduct are not working.''

Fairfax Media understands that several businesses have been heavily promoting the alternative cash machines to gaming venue operators.

Cash Point promises in its marketing materials that the system will ensure ''customers have easy access to their cash within your venue within the new guidelines''.

Tony Parsons, gaming co-ordinator at the Epping Plaza Hotel, said the operator stood by the use of the promotional signs and noted the cash-out machine was not located in the gaming area. ''No eftpos facility or transaction can occur in the gaming room,'' Mr Parsons said.

He added that calls to ban all cash withdrawal facilities at gaming venues were ''misguided'' because the machines were also used by non-gamblers.

A report commissioned by the Department of Justice's Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing revealed the ATM ban has been successful, with spending on gaming dropping 7 per cent in 2012-13.

Problem gamblers have been spending less and reported increased self-control over their addiction. Low-risk gamblers also reported spending less money and time at venues, the report found.

Before the ban, daily ATM withdrawals were restricted to $400 per card holder.

Under the current rules, individual eftpos withdrawals are limited to $200 per transaction but the daily limit is set by banks and credit unions.

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation spokesman John Smith said no complaints regarding the new machines had been received.

In December 2012, then Minister for Gaming Michael O'Brien said the government would not allow its ATM ban to be undermined by hybrid machines that allowed easy access to cash.

Cash withdrawals are allowed at gaming venues if they are conducted face-to-face with staff and through traditional eftpos facilities.

Spending on pokies across the state fell 6.7 per cent - or $62 million - in 2012-13, which the government credited to its ATM ban.