Developments in Responsible Gambling

There have been many recent developments in responsible gambling:


In December 2007, a statutory 5 year review of the Gaming Machines Act was completed and tabled in NSW Parliament. The review recommended a range of amendments to the Gaming Machines Act, which are currently being drafted. It will include a major restructure of the administrative arrangements for gaming machines and liquor, ending the Liquor Administration Board and Licensing Court, and changing the procedures for transferring gaming machine permits. ATMs will continue to be allowed in gaming venues, but will need to be modified so that patrons cannot access cash from credit card transactions. The government decided not to reduce maximum bet limits, as there is no research supporting this.

A review of responsible gambling signage was also completed in 2007. This has not been publicly released but is likely to be incorporated into the amendments to the Gaming Machines Act.


BetSafe supports the modification of ATMs to prevent cash being accessed from credit cards. We do not support the complete removal of ATMs from venues. People find ATMs very convenient and we believe it is more important to promote responsible gambling than take a Big Brother role. If ATMs were completely removed from venues, gamblers would adapt and bring more money with them or simply go to the nearest ATM outside the venue.

BetSafe has urged the government to improve signage for a long time. The BetSafe signage and materials have much more impact than the government signage. However, the problem is that there are now so many signs for gambling, liquor, minors etc, that patrons don't read any of them.


During the Federal election campaign, Mr Rudd said: "I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families."

In a radio interview in March 2008, the Prime Minister was asked about the Federal Government's intentions. Mr Rudd said:

Well I am concerned about the impact which this has on families doing their entire dough. I don't have all the science on this one. I notice John Brumby in Victoria has done the right thing by ripping ATMs out of poker machine premises. I think that is a good step forward.

But I have indicated in my discussions with others, other Premiers that we want to look at this during the course of the year about what further can be done. I don't pretend to have a complete solution to this.

I want to get some science around it. That is, the extent of gambling addiction, the extent to which this is best dealt with while balancing that against the 77,000 people who work in the gaming industry in the country.

The Prime Minister has asked Family and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin to review state reliance on gambling revenue, $4.5 billion of which comes from gaming machines. Ms Macklin announced that she would be reconvening the Ministerial Council on Gambling to discuss these issues with the States.

Clubs Australia have told the Prime Minister that a national inquiry is needed to sort fact from rumour on the link between problem gambling and poker machines.

The Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, has called for the Productivity Commission to conduct a fresh report, but the Prime Minister has rejected this.

The Victorian Family First Senator, Steve Fielding recently introduced a Bill to Federal Parliament to ban gaming machines everywhere in Australia except casinos and racetracks. Clearly he is adding to the already significant influence in Victoria of Tim Costello and others.


The previous government banned most internet gambling in 1991 and this remains a Federal responsibility under the Telecommunications Act. There is no doubt that internet and telephone gambling is increasing rapidly, particularly with the younger generation. This is despite the Federal government ban. We believe that the Federal government will need to work on educating the public about the risks of internet and telephone gambling, as it will be impossible to effectively police the ban.

Despite the rhetoric, we believe that the Federal Government will not move to ban poker machines, but rather will content itself with a range of technical and financial controls. Hopefully, further research will be conducted into what technical aspects are likely to create problem gambling, so that safer machines can be developed.

Likewise, the government's overall strategy of raising financial literacy will hopefully result in a better educated population, who will simply include recreational gambling expenditure in their budgets. Signage and information will assist patrons to exercise informed choice, as recommended by IPART in 2004.

There will always be a small group of people who cannot control their gambling, and BetSafe is active in working to improve counselling standards and self-exclusion programs for the wider industry.


On 25th March 2008, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, announced that from 2010, Victorian gaming machines would be required to incorporate pre-commitment mechanisms, giving players the option to pre-commit the amount of time and money they spend. Possibly a smartcard would be used.

Victoria also has introduced the following harm minimisation measures:

New gaming machines now have a maximum bet of $5 (halved from $10), existing machines will have the maximum bet reduced to $5 from 2010

Research indicates that a small percentage of gamblers bet more on machines with a higher bet limit. However, it has not been established that a reduction in maximum bet size from $10 to $5 will have any significant impact on problem gambling. We don't think it will.

Flashing warnings on machines about problem gambling (from 2010)

Canadian research showed that a "pop-up" screen that appeared on a machine after 30 minutes play was useful to some gamblers in reminding them of how long they had spent playing the machine. The introduction of a "pop-up" screen was recommended in NSW by IPART in 2004, but so far has not been required by the NSW government. We consider that a pop-up screen would assist some individuals who tend to lose track of time.
The problem with flashing warnings is that they will embarrass gaming machine players, whether or not they have a problem.

ATMs will be banned from clubs and hotels with gaming machines from 2012

Research in the A.C.T. in 2004 provided evidence in support of the removal of ATMs from gaming venues. It is likely that removal of ATMs will reduce overall gaming machine expenditure, as people will only gamble the cash they have with them. In the longer term, gamblers will adapt and bring more cash to the venue. Problem gamblers will quickly adapt by bringing more cash and learning where the nearest ATM outside the venue is.

Banned smoking in gaming machine venues

Victoria saw an initial decrease in gaming machine expenditure of 20% but this was only temporary. NSW is also seeing a decrease and we believe that it will also recover to the previous level of expenditure. Clearly the smoking ban is improving the health of patrons and staff, but is a different issue to responsible gambling.

Regional caps on gaming machine numbers

Accessibility to gambling is clearly linked to problem gambling, and the Victorian regional caps have reduced the accessibility to gaming machines in poorer regions of the State. NSW will introduce 3 zones for the location of gaming machines under the proposed changes to the Gaming Machines Act. This will have some impact in slowing the movement of gaming machines into the poorer suburbs of the State. It will have a greater impact on hotels than registered clubs, as clubs are generally located within a particular region already.

Regional caps will have the greatest impact on recreational gamblers as they will find that all the machines are taken in busy periods (eg Friday, Saturday nights) while problem gamblers will adjust their behaviour to gamble at other times.

Mandatory shutdown periods for venues other than Crown Casino

The mandatory shutdown has had little impact on problem gambling, apart from providing a break for problem gamblers who keep gambling until all their money has gone. However, these problem gamblers invariably return to gamble the remainder when the venue reopens or they go to the casino.

Banned autoplay facilities and put a freeze on spin rates

Recent South Australian research indicated that the availability of "free spins" on machines is a major attraction to problem gamblers and it is likely that the existing limits on the number and characteristics of "free spins" will be further restricted. ReelPower and Autoplay features are also criticised in research as contributing to problem gambling. The South Australian study pointed to Indian Dreaming, Shogun and Shogun II as being more attractive to problem gamblers than Dolphin Treasure. See:

Restricted gaming venue signage and banned gaming machine advertising

Gaming machine advertising clearly can act as trigger to problem gamblers. We support the NSW ban on gaming machine advertising and signage. The NSW government has proposed that club members can opt in to receive gaming machine advertising and reduce the restrictions on advertising within the venue.

Gaming machines must display graphic new player information warnings about the effects of problem gambling

We believe that recreational gamblers are more likely to respond to positive messages about responsible gambling, e.g. setting time, setting a budget, rather than negative shock type warnings. Gaming machines are different from tobacco products, and the sort of shock advertising that works with cigarettes is not appropriate for gaming machines.

Hotel and club gaming machine wins over $1000 must be paid by cheque

NSW has required payment by cheque for some time and this has had some positive effect for recreational gamblers, who would otherwise be inclined to gamble all their winnings. However, some gamblers report playing down their credits to avoid having to take a cheque.

South Australia

The South Australian Responsible Gambling Working Party has been created by the S.A. Government to look at ways to help gamblers set limits on their gambling. Discussion is currently focussed on financial literacy and education programs for schools in understanding gambling.

The government previously rejected the recommendation of its Independent Gambling Authority for pre-commitment smartcards to be used for the State's gaming machines. However the government has reduced the number of machines in the State by 3,000


The responsible gambling program at Adelaide's Sky City casino is very comprehensive and includes the employment of staff to talk to patrons who indicate that they have a gambling problem. Their approach is similar to BetSafe, except that they approach people who may have indicated a gambling problem in ways other than a statement.

We support the development of financial literacy programs for schools and have reviewed the package prepared by the Australian Gaming Council which we consider to be very positive.

We don't think that smartcards would assist problem gamblers. The experience with player activity statements in NSW suggests that problem gamblers would not want to have to use a smartcard. If they were forced to use a smartcard, it is likely that they would simply find ways to get around it, such as a black market where people would lend or sell their smartcards to problem gamblers.


Premier Anna Bligh has expressed support for a cap on the amount of money that could be withdrawn from ATM machines, saying that a total ban on ATMs in gambling venues would be too harsh.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce has been attacking the State government over the issue of poker machines. Queensland has over 45,000 poker machines, compared with 30,000 in Victoria and approximately 100,000 in NSW. The Responsible Gambling Advisory Committee has urged the Queensland government to introduce further measures to address problem gambling. In particular, they want a reduction in poker machine numbers.


BetSafe staff were involved in a government review of ATMs, which concluded that it would be very difficult to restrict the amount of money that could be withdrawn from ATMs, other than basic restrictions in the venue. So a person could withdraw say $200 from a machine, then go down the road to the next venue, and withdraw another $200, then go to a bank and withdraw $1000 and so on.

What BetSafe is doing

The BetSafe program of responsible gambling continues to exceed the mandatory legal requirements in both NSW and the ACT. In particular BetSafe clubs are pro-active in relation to the promotion of problem gambling counselling and vigorous in their provision of self-exclusion. BetSafe clubs provide a range of materials promoting responsible gambling in addition to those required by law, such as information on display screens, brochures etc. BetSafe provides a specialist problem gambling counselling service available 24/7.

BetSafe has ongoing communication with government, particularly the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing regarding a range of responsible gambling issues. BetSafe has been involved in the government's review of counselling services and self-exclusion schemes. Recent submissions made by BetSafe to government include:

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