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‘Turn their lives around’: Victoria to introduce Australia’s toughest measures to curb poker machines’ harm

The new laws will make it much harder for addicts to lose vast sums in mere hours.

The new laws will make it much harder for addicts to lose vast sums in mere hours. Photo: AAP

Mandatory closing hours, slower spin times and smaller spending limits will be used to minimise gambling’s harm in sweeping gaming reforms across Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews and gaming minister Melissa Horne on Sunday announced a series of reforms for electronic gaming machines (EGMs) across the state.

Under the reforms, EGMs in Victoria will require mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play.

Load-up limits, how much money an individual can put into an EGM at a time, will be capped at $100, down from the current limit of $1000.

The changes are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

By mid-2024, mandatory closure periods will be enforced for all gaming machine areas in a venue, excluding Melbourne’s Crown Casino, between 4am and 10am.

Praise from an ex-addict

The government will also make it mandatory for all new EGMs to spin at a rate of three seconds per game, slowing the pace of the game down and limiting the amount that can be lost.

Caroline Crawford, a reformed gambler whose addiction led to her spending time in jail after stealing $400,000 from her employer to feed her habit, praised the changes, and that mandatory closing hours were an important part of the plan.

She said in her area there were two gaming venues – one that closed at 8am and the other opened at 8am – effectively making it possible for locals to gamble 24 hours a day.

“No one needs to be behind a machine at two or three in the morning. I’ve been there, I’ve seen what happens … it’s not pretty,” she said.

“These changes just blow my mind.”

Mr Andrews said it was important for his government to make the changes.

“These reforms will provide the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia,” he said.

“We owe it to all Victorians to take this stance and help those experiencing harm turn their lives around.”

Ms Horne said everyone loses when it comes to gambling.

‘People lose their relationships’

“It’s not confined to money. People lose their relationships, their jobs and their wellbeing,” she said.

“Our previous reforms have delivered stronger oversight of the gambling industry in Victoria with a regulator unafraid to hold venues to account. Now we’re doing more important work to reduce gambling-related harm.”

NSW is also looking to crack down on gambling harm and will begin trialling cashless gaming on poker machines within months.

The government will also ban gambling-related signage from outside pubs and clubs.

It has also vowed to reduce the number of pokies in the state and impose a ban on political donations from clubs with gaming operations.

And since July 1, players are only able to put $500 cash into machines at a time, down from $5000.

-AAP

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