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Anger as gamblers get green light to use notes in pokies

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A State Government move to allow hotels, clubs and the Adelaide Casino to install pokie machines that accept notes, rather than only coins, has prompted fierce criticism from crossbenchers and welfare groups who claim it is a sop to the hotel industry that will only harm problem gamblers.

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The Government says the measure will bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions, but social welfare advocates argue it will only increase the harms wrought by problem gambling here.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the introduction of note acceptors would bring South Australia “into line with other Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions, and would be strictly regulated”.

“The denomination of banknotes and amount of money allowed to be inserted by a player would be strictly controlled to mitigate any potential risk to problem gamblers,” she said.

The Government also announced it would allow single or multiple venues to prohibit problem gamblers’ entry indefinitely.

“Barring orders are an integral part of our measures to combat problem gambling and protecting the community from gambling-related harm,” Chapman said.

“Under these reforms, barring orders may be made for any period or an indefinite period and be initiated for multiple gaming venues.

“In addition, any money won by a barred patron – or unclaimed winnings on gaming machines – will be forfeited and paid into the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund.”

Alliance for Gambling Reforms spokesperson Tim Costello told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that allowing gamblers to feed notes rather than coins into the machines would cause “far more marriages breaking up, far more bankruptcies (and more) hungry kids”.

Uniting Communities advocacy manager Mark Henley told FIVEAA: “other jurisdictions that started off with note-acceptors have progressively pulled back the denominations, they recognise how dangerous note-acceptors are”.

“And it would be a very irresponsible move in South Australia to allow note-acceptors in particular to be introduced as part of the gambling scene here.”

But Chapman said there was no evidence of increased harms in states that already allow note acceptors on pokie machines.

“Interstate there isn’t evidence that that’s changed up or down,” she told the radio station this morning.

“We’re putting poker machines in SA on the same playing field as interstate (and) we still accept it’s a significant entertainment and gambling form for South Australians largely in the older age group.

“We’ve looked all across the board and introduced a number of initiatives on the protection of the vulnerable gambler side (and) we’ll add some more.”

The Government is also proposing to allow gaming venues, including the Adelaide Casino, to operate on Christmas Day and Good Friday, and to impose a fixed limit on the number of gaming machines in South Australia.

Note acceptors are not a harm minimisation measure, they are the complete opposite of that – every single problem gambling expert will tell you that

The Australian Hotels Association welcomed the changes, describing them as striking a “balance between preserving some opportunities for the industry – hotels, clubs and the Casino – to grow their business, but also recognising that there’s already in place in South Australia a significantly well-developed harm minimisation environment”.

“We’re just simply asking to bring South Australian gaming into line with every other mainland state and New Zealand who all use note-acceptors.

“In fact, the statistics don’t suggest that they’ve somehow got a greater or lesser problem than us.”

SA-Best MLCs Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo claimed the note-collector move was a “vulgar reward” for the hotel industry’s support for the Liberal Party during the 2018 state election.

“Today’s announcement is nothing more than payback – a vulgar reward – to the AHA (Australian Hotels Association) for its loyalty to the Liberals during last year’s election campaign and the vast sums of money it gave them to help it win government,” said Bonaros.

“Note acceptors are not a harm minimisation measure – they are the complete opposite of that … every single problem gambling expert will tell you that – yet the Attorney General is using that argument as a selling point to her outrageous plans.

“The number of problem gamblers – 85% of whom play poker machines – has almost doubled over the past 14 years.”

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