Suppositions circulated this week by the ACT Council of Social Services and the unregistered lobbying entity Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance misrepresent many facts about gaming in the ACT, particularly when it comes to the cost of gambling harm.
“In a joint statement, ACTCOSS and CGRA claim gambling harm costs our community $214 million a year,” ClubsACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees said. “These are actually two very different subjects that have been fused together in a blatant attempt at scaremongering.”
Canberrans spend just over $200 million a year on gambling of all types, including sports betting and in the casino.
“Not every dollar Canberrans spend equates to a dollar of harm. Many in our community can, and do, enjoy having a flutter for fun and within safe limits,” Mr Rees said.
“Of the spend on gaming machines, a large proportion goes back into our community. There are over $30 million in direct taxes to the ACT Government, then GST, $11 million in community contributions, $1.6 million in gambling harm levies, $400,000 to the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund, and maintenance and operation of our community clubs.
“Each of these dollars is a benefit not a cost and they do good within our community. In addition our clubs create over 1700 local jobs and that number does not include the jobs created in our supply chain.
“Calling ACT’s poker machines the most dangerous in Australia demonstrates either limited understanding of gaming or blatant disregard for the truth.
“All poker machines in the ACT, including their spin limits and bet limits, are regulated. No machines can operate in the ACT until they have been approved and introduced in NSW. ACT machines are subject to the same protocols as those in NSW, but here we have additional protections compared to our neighbouring jurisdictions.
“In the ACT, our machines will not accept $50 notes, but they do in NSW. Gaming cannot be advertised in the ACT as it can in Victoria and NSW. As gaming is only allowed in licensed clubs in the ACT, people have to sign in and our club staff are watching for signs of harm. In the ACT we have a better record for steering people to self-exclusion and support.
“We have tough cash-out limits compared to NSW. Our EFTPOS withdrawal limit is $200 per transaction and requires a human interaction with a staff member. If any club member or guest makes two EFTPOS transactions in a day there is a requirement under the Gambling and Racing Code of Conduct for that to be reported, which helps identify those Canberrans who may need help.
“And our payout limit is $1500 compared to $5000 in NSW. This means anyone seeking to claim winnings greater than $1500 not only has to take a break from play, but can only receive their winnings into their bank account or by cheque – not in cash.
“The ACT has one of the lowest per capita gambling expenditures in the country and the lowest total gambling expenditure when it comes to percentage of household disposable income.
“If ACTCOSS and CGRA wish to share their less than rigorous analysis of what gambling costs, we would like them to be equally forthcoming in calculating the cost of their gaming proposals on our local clubs, employment and community contributions.
“Since September 2015, there are 1322 less poker machines operating in clubs and 5 clubs have permanently closed.
We would welcome ACTCOSS engaging with the industry to work collaboratively and to better understand clubs. Our board has previously extended an invitation to meet to discuss a way forward but the offer was not taken up.
For media enquiries please contact:
Gwyn Rees, ClubsACT
0410 902 982
Gwyn Rees is the CEO of ClubsACT