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16 Mar 2022

The universal pre-commitment scheme must be implemented in every pub and club, not only the casino.

In December 2021, Victorians lost $250 million to poker machines in pubs and clubs in just one month. It’s the highest monthly loss we’ve ever seen and clearly demonstrates the scale of poker machine impact in our communities. Think about what that $250 million might have provided to individuals, families, businesses and communities.

Following the Royal Commission into Crown Casino we’ve been given a unique opportunity to fight for a game-changing gambling reform, a reform that will make a real difference - universal pre-commitment.

Universal pre-commitment is an evidence-backed, meaningful way to prevent and reduce gambling harm from poker machines. It allows people to set time and spending limits on poker machines as well as track their use. But it needs to be binding so that once the limit is reached people can no longer use the machine. It must also be universal so everyone who uses the machine needs to have a card.

One of the most important elements of a universal card is that it significantly reduces the stigma around using a gambling harm prevention tool. In Victoria there is a voluntary pre-commitment scheme called YourPlay which has incredibly low take up. One of the many barriers to the YourPlay card working well is the difficulty of asking for the card from venue staff. If all poker machine users needed a card, there is no stigma in having one.

And gambling card will require reasonable limits. The YourPlay card limit can be set as high as $1 million per day. I’m not too sure about you, but we don’t think many people actually have the means to spend that on a poker machine in one’s lifetime, let alone a day. A more appropriate limit needs to be set for gambling cards.

Last year the Royal Commission into Crown Casino recommended that Universal Pre-commitment be introduced into the casino and the Victorian state government has committed to this. However, the problem remains that once someone has reached their limit at the casino, they can simply go down the road to other venues making this harm prevention measure redundant unless it applies to pubs and clubs, further facilitating gambling harm and money laundering in our suburbs and regions.

The universal pre-commitment scheme must be implemented in every pub and club, not only the casino.

Pubs and clubs understand that universal pre-commitment will prevent harm and reduce money laundering, however, they also understand that if less people are harmed by gambling, their revenue will drop. Gambling harm from poker machines is experienced wherever there are poker machines available.

The AGR believes, based on evidence, it makes a lot of sense for the Victorian Government to legislate universal pre-commitment as a workable harm reduction measure across the state. Victoria has invested in successful gambling harm prevention projects like Libraries After Dark, which is a reflection of the need for community based solutions to combat gambling harm across the state. However, with universal pre-commitment it can immediately reduce the harm of every poker machine in the State to tackle the crisis in our pubs and clubs.

Our governments should be seeking to enhance the economic, health and social well-being of all citizens. Reducing the level of gambling harm is one very clear way in which the Victorian government can demonstrate its commitment to the well-being of the communities it serves.

I hope you will join with us at AGR in supporting a universal pre-commitment for all poker machines and asking the Victorian government to make a change for good that will benefit all Victorians.

Carol Bennett Chief Executive Officer

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