Clubs ACT reveals new plan to combat problem gambling

Clubs ACTIt’s been a rough year for Clubs ACT, with the industry coming under fire for multiple violations regarding the electronic gaming machines on offer in Canberra’s sporting clubs. Now Clubs ACT is asking for help from the government.

The industry group is requesting a government funded independent officer be made available to help intervene with problem gambling at ACT gaming venues. It is part of a five-point plan developed by Clubs ACT to help combat problem gambling, which includes the launch of a gambling harm advisory task-force and the call for territory-wide exclusions for anyone identified to be a problem gambler.

The head of Clubs ACT Gwyn Rees said, “We accept the community has a trust issue with clubs when it comes to the management of problem gambling.

“The problem gambling intervention officer will be independent and should be independently appointed by the government.  This role should be tasked with signing off on the exclusion process and signing off when someone wishes to return to a gambling environment.”

Ms Rees said exclusions needed to be enforced territory wide, adding “It is not enough to exclude from one venue, the risk of harm is a price that is too high.  People who exclude, should be excluded from all venues, whether it is a pub, TAB, casino or a club.”

The trouble for Clubs ACT, which represents 70 per cent of Canberra’s clubs, started when recovering gambling addict Professor Laurie Bell revealed club staff were helping her curtail ATM withdrawal limits in pokies rooms by allowing her to withdraw an unlimited amount using staff assisted eftpos transactions. She also said no staff intervened with her gambling habits, even though she was displaying obvious signs of gambling addiction.

When investigated further, it was revealed many of ACT’s clubs were skirting ATM limits by allowing eftpos withdrawals, prompting the ACT government to consider ways to restrict the amount of money withdrawn from any club offering gaming facilities. Clubs ACT has opposed the government proposal to ban eftpos assisted cash-outs.

Last week, the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission revealed it has investigated the Ainslie Football Club after complaints its pokie machines were visible from outside the venue – an offence in the ACT. Other clubs were also investigated for allegations they were falsely advertising pokie machine jackpots and refusing to pay winnings after machines malfunctioned.

Clubs ACT is expected to release further details about its five-point plan to tackle problem gambling today.

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