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"Cynical" pokie pubs get around ATM laws

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Cash machines that dodge the Federal Government’s new withdrawal caps on ATMs are being rolled out in poker machine pubs around South Australia.

eCash Pospoint machines operate like ATMs but require a staff member to give out the cash when a patron swipes their card. But they’re classified as EFTPOS machines, meaning ATM legislation – which limits withdrawals in poker machine venues to $250 a day – doesn’t cover them.

Vocal anti-pokie advocate Senator Nick Xenophon says the new machines are a “flagrant breach” of the intent of the ATM-withdrawal-cap legislation and describes it was a cynical move by the industry.

Attorney-General John Rau also issued a warning to pokie venues.

“We are aware of this issue and have a firm view that we will not tolerate any attempt to circumvent the laws,” he said.

However, South Australia’s Independent Gambling Authority believes the eCash machines are much safer than withdrawal-capped ATMs because they require gamblers to talk to a staff member.

The Tea Tree Gully Hotel had a machine installed last week and InDaily has confirmed that the Colonnades Tavern in Noarlunga and the Midway Tavern in Elizabeth have both recently installed machines as well.

The Whitehorse Inn Hotel recently installed a machine, but staff there said it wasn’t yet in operation because technical kinks were still being ironed out.

Several other venues around the state have either installed or are considering installing terminals, sources in the gaming machine industry say.

The eCash machine works by using the EFTPOS network as its transaction method, with a cashier distributing any money withdrawn.

eCash explicitly markets its product as a solution to get around the new restrictions. Its website says the machines are a “solution for the new Federal Gaming Legislation’s Act for venue Cash Out”.

Testimonials on the eCash website include one from a Victorian venue claiming that “since moving to eCash, our turnover has increased by 27% from our ATM days”.

State legislation, which came into effect on January 1, bans ATMs from poker machine areas in clubs.

Federal legislation, which comes into effect in February, limits ATMs in poker machine venues from discharging more than $250 per card per day.

“If these measures were about problem gambling, then they’ve just been completely undermined by these eCash machines,” Xenophon told InDaily this morning.

“The only reason these machines appear is to prey on problem gamblers,” he said.

South Australia’s Independent Gambling Authority said it was aware of the loophole that allowed eCash machines to operate but said they were much safer than withdrawal-capped ATMs.

“You’re needing to speak to someone in the venue who will have had an amount of training in understanding, knowing your customer, making sure you’re keeping track of their spending,” the authority’s director Robert Chappell said.

“From our point of view, that’s actually better than being able to go to a machine.”

Chappell argued that a person with three credit cards could feasibly withdraw $750 a day from an ATM “anonymously”.

“If you could build a daily ATM limit that actually knew how many cards a person had, wow, wouldn’t that be fantastic? But I don’t think that exists.”

While the new legislation has only recently been approved, use of electronic gaming machines (EGM) has decreased in recent years according to a report produced by the Social Research Centre.

The report concluded that use of EGMs has fallen “from 30 per cent of South Australian adults in 2005 to 26.5 per cent in 2012”.

Those using the machines the most had not changed however with the report finding that gambling was still highest among young males, people aged under 35, people with no formal post-secondary educational qualifications and those in full-time paid employment.

 

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