Victoria moves to introduce default $50 loss limit on poker machines

<span>Under the deal, a gambler would have a default daily loss limit set at $50 when using poker machines in Victoria.</span><span>Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters</span>
Under the deal, a gambler would have a default daily loss limit set at $50 when using poker machines in Victoria.Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

A default $50 daily limit on poker machine losses is set to be introduced in Victoria, and an overhaul of a much-criticised tax break for gambling venues considered, as part of a deal struck between the Labor government and the Greens.

The Greens said they had secured the commitments in exchange for their support of the government’s Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation repeal and advisory councils bill. The bill was debated in the upper house on Thursday and passed with the Greens’ amendment. It now will return to the lower house.

Under the commitment, a default loss limit of $50 will be set – which could then be changed by a gambler under the pre-commitment scheme – when Victoria introduces a mandatory carded-play system for all of the state’s poker machines.

The government had last year said the “load limit” – the maximum amount of money an individual can put into a gambling machine at a time – would be cut from $1,000 to $100.

“I can confirm that the Victorian government will adopt a new mandatory pre-commitment system for clubs and hotels, and it will have a suggested daily loss limit of $50, consistent with your suggestion,” the gaming minister, Melissa Horne, wrote to Greens MP Katherine Copsey, in a letter seen by Guardian Australia.

In her letter, Horne described the changes as the “strongest suite of reforms that will comprehensively change the way gambling is conducted in this state”.

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She did not provide a timeline for when the state will move to the mandatory carded-play system, which will require legislation, but said the government was consulting with gambling experts, and industry and community groups on the reforms.

The community benefits scheme, meanwhile, allows gambling machine revenue to be taxed at a lower rate, provided some gambling revenue was invested back into the community. To claim the subsidy, venues are required to lodge a statement that shows how they are benefiting the community, either directly or indirectly.

But Guardian Australia has previously reported money has been reinvested into the clubs’ own operating costs and upgrades, rather than going to charities.

Foxtel subscriptions, cleaning products, gardening and laundry services, free soft drink promotions for children and member promotions have all been claimed as “indirect community benefits”, leading a parliamentary inquiry last year to recommend it be overhauled.

In her letter, Horne said: “I agree that the system is in need of an overhaul and I invite you to participate in the process to identify improvements to the scheme, including a joint meeting with myself and gambling harm reduction stakeholders”.

Copsey said urged the government to act on the commitments immediately.

“The government needs to implement meaningful gambling harm reforms without delay and the Greens are pleased to have secured a commitment to a $50 daily default loss limit,” she said.

“This practical reform will have a real impact in curbing the horrible impacts predatory poker machines have on Victorians.”

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation repeal and advisory councils bill dissolves the state agency from 1 July.

It has said its prevention and programs functions, including Gambler’s Help, will be transferred to the department of health, while gambling harm awareness and prevention functions, including public campaigns, will be transferred to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission.

• In Australia, Gambling Help Online is available on 1800 858 858. The National Debt Helpline is at 1800 007 007. In the UK, support for problem gambling can be found via the NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic on 020 7381 7722, or GamCare on 0808 8020 133. In the US, call the National Council on Problem Gambling at 800-GAMBLER or text 800GAM.