Restrictions on racing bookies relaxed, pokie warnings changed
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Restrictions on racing bookies relaxed, pokie warnings changed

The ACT government has relaxed restrictions preventing those with five-year old fraud, gaming, or dishonesty convictions from being considered for a racing bookmaker's licence.

But bookies will still be subjected to a public interest test to ensure unwanted criminal elements do not become involved in the industry.

Limits on those who can be considered for racing bookmaker's licences have been eased.

Limits on those who can be considered for racing bookmaker's licences have been eased.Credit:Josh Robenstone

Legislation passed by ACT parliament on Tuesday will also replace "percentage payout" signage on pokies with harm minimisation messages, and will no longer require interstate visitors to be with a member to sign in at ACT clubs.

The government moved to significantly cut red tape and regulations on the gaming and racing sector on Tuesday, which included an overhaul of licensing requirements for race bookmaking designed to "reduce the administrative and regulatory burden".

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Previously, bookmakers and bookmaker'€™s agents needed to have a reputation for "sound business conduct and sound character" and could not have any criminal conviction in their past.

The sound character test has now been removed, in an attempt to make consideration of applications more objective.

The changes also mean only offences of fraud, dishonesty, or against gaming law, or crimes punishable by at least one year's imprisonment, will be considered relevant.

Criminal convictions will only be considered if they are less than five years old.

This means such people can be considered by the Gambling and Racing Commission for a licence but does not mean they will necessarily be approved. Such an approval will depend on a public interest test that takes in a range of factors.

Racing bookmakers were described in the bill's explanatory statement as lower-risk than sports bookmakers.

"As race bookmaking is considered to represent a lower risk than sports bookmaking and some other gambling licensees, it was considered unreasonable to apply convictions for criminal offences in perpetuity," the bill's explanatory statement said.

The changes are understood to bring licensing requirements into line with similar regulations, including casino regulation.

The government has ended the legal requirement on ACT clubs that interstate visitors be accompanied by members.

It has also changed signage requirements for poker machines.

Signs that displayed the percentage payout of each machine will no longer be required, because Gaming Minister Mick Gentleman said they were misleading and inaccurate. The signs were also creating a difficult auditing burden for government.

They will be replaced by clearer and more consistent harm minimisation messages, displayed on or next to the machines.

Those messages include "Have you spent more than you can afford?" and "Set your limit. Play within it".

Mr Gentleman said he was "pleased to progress these important reforms suggested by industry".

Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees welcomed the red tape reduction, but said the burden of fees and taxes on clubs was still onerous.

"Whilst we welcome any administrative relief, the government is yet to look seriously at the burden of fees, taxes and charges it has imposed on community clubs over the past 10 years," Mr Rees said.

"Some of these are completely unique to the ACT or at quantum well above those found in other states."

Christopher Knaus is a reporter for The Canberra Times.

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