In Gaming - Pokies by Karen Woods

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Following the people’s referendum on pokies in March, the Tasmanian government has responded to critics’ pressure by putting further restrictions on operators.

On 1 May a review of the Responsible Gambling Mandatory Code of Practice for Tasmania comes into effect.

The review has mandated that patrons in pub and club gaming rooms cannot be served alcohol if playing or at a gaming machine, whether seated or standing.

Casinos can only serve alcohol to players until 6pm.

Potentially of more significance to venues outside metropolitan areas, ATM machines in venues with gaming machines will dispense a limit of only $100. The $200 limit remains for casinos.

The cash limit does not differentiate the gamblers it seeks to protect, thus also restricting patrons’ access to cash for all non-gambling amenities, including meals, bar and accommodation.

“To even further minimise EFTPOS withdrawals for patrons in gaming pubs is tough for patrons and staff, and doesn’t allow any flexibility for country and regional pubs where patrons have limited access to cash options, and in many circumstances the local pub is the only option,” stressed Steve Old, Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) CEO.

“These changes will further frustrate tourists who travel to our State, and they should have the choice to decide how they access their cash and for what purposes, just like they do in other states.”

The THA actively participated in the process of reviewing the Code, offering suggestions on making it “more workable”, which it reports were not consistently adopted. Of note was the decision to further expand the State’s strong focus on RSA to exclude the minority of gamers that it shelters.

“Venue operators should be allowed to service their customers as they choose within RSA laws and within gaming laws as they currently do,” suggests Old. “There is no evidence to suggest that this and many of the other changes will make any difference to problem gambling rates or individuals.”

After the headline-grabbing lead-up to the election, where a win for Labor may have seen poker machines phased out in pubs over the next five years, Old remarks there was no shortage of media and pundits arguing beyond their ken, and he hopes the changes will help rectify the deficit.

“One thing that was very clear in the recent Tasmanian State election was the lack of understanding and knowledge of what the gaming laws and restrictions are in Tasmania by those outside of the industry, and I hope that many of those people take the time to understand the new code … but I won’t hold my breath.”