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Stronger harm minimisation measures are needed, mainly aimed at 'pokies', including lowering the intensity of play and the capacity for gamblers to set spending limits on themselves, according to this report.

Gamblers in Australia spend (lose) over $18 billion per year including nearly $12 billion on poker machines.

The Commission estimates that problem gamblers account for around 15 per cent of regular gaming machine players, with a further 15 per cent facing moderate risks. The Commission also found problem gamblers' share of total spending on pokies ranged around 40 per cent.

The Commission has drawn from experiences in Australia and overseas to craft proposals that help reduce the social costs of gambling without unduly impacting on its recreational value. Key proposals are directed at:

•    reducing the amounts that people can lose (currently up to $1200 per hour) through lower limits on bets per button push and on how much money can be fed into machines

•    giving people the choice to set limits on how much time and money they spend on gambling, through a universal 'pre commitment' system harnessed to improved technologies.

Other harm minimisation proposals include limiting access to cash in venues, longer and earlier shutdowns of gaming rooms (drawing from the Queensland approach), and better warnings (based on Victoria's model).
The Commission has also proposed an overhaul of wagering regulations that will promote competition and lower prices for punters, while sustaining the racing industry.

The report finds that Australia's ban on online gaming is not working, with Australians increasingly gambling abroad on sites with minimal consumer protection. The Commission proposes 'managed liberalisation', with supply being made legal in Australia, but only if stringent harm minimisation measures are introduced.

The Commission is holding public hearings on its draft inquiry report in late November/December, with its final report to Government by 26 February 2010.

Image: 'Bedazzled', MichaelEC / Flickr

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