Gambling in Australia: legal amendments and cashless pokies

Two major changes have been proposed in Australia.
Two major changes have been proposed in Australia.

Parliament will discuss an amendment on bets made with stolen money while NSW has plans for cashless pokies.

Australia.- The gaming landscape could be changing in Australia, with several new regulations on the cards that could mean changes for casinos.

Firstly, Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of parliament for Tasmania known to be anti-gambling has introduced a private members bill that aims to make casinos liable for taking bets made with stolen money

The bill entitled Making Gambling Businesses Accountable would oblige operators to compensate the victim of the theft if a customer is found to have gambled with stolen property.

If passed, the rule will be added as an amendment to Australia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act (AML).

When introducing the bill, Wilkie said: “We must have a mechanism in place to repair the damage that results from gambling addiction and protect the innocent. If you buy a stolen car you have to give it back. The same should go for gambling companies returning stolen cash.”

David Green, principal at Newpage Consulting, noted that it is yet to be seen whether the bill will gain any support from either of the main political parties.

He told Focus Gaming News Asia Pacific that the bill “would be limited to penalising casinos which do not adequately manage suspicious transactions.

He added: “In large part, this is a response to revelations at the Crown inquiry regarding Crown Melbourne’s apparent failure to identify and report money laundering through its accounts.”

Meanwhile, the New South Wales (NSW) government has proposed a plan to install cashless pokies that could only be used with a government-issued gambling card.

Green said the move could be a positive development since people wouldn’t have to handle cash during the remainder of the pandemic, while the card would also prevent excluded customers with gambling problems from playing even if they are able to enter a gambling venue.

He added: “People are quite accustomed, since Covid-19 began, to not using cash for anything much.”

Nonetheless, the measure has caused concerns over privacy issues and the fear that it could hinder club and pub income at a critical time. NSW Labour leader Michael Daley has warned: “Some of these measures could really devastate pubs and clubs at a time when their survival is under threat and protecting jobs is paramount.”

He also raised concerns about civil liberties due to the fact that the proposed gambling cards would result in records of customer activity being retained.

NSWClubs, a trade body representing more than 1,200 clubs in the state, said it was a bad time to force through expensive new schemes. Chief executive Josh Landis said any measures should be effective and affordable.

Public consultation on the Gaming Machines Amendment Bill 2020 is scheduled to end on December 11.

Even if cashless pokies are finally adopted, Green does not believe it will have a financial impact on casinos.

He said: “It won’t affect table games and commission-based players of those games. What it will enable, though, is pre-commitment, which makes people limit the duration of their play, and the extent of their gambling loss within a particular timeframe.”

Gambling-related harm on the public agenda in Australia for some time but it is no coincidence that more measures have been introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online betting increased significantly in the country during lockdown. A study by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) found that a third of respondents had signed up for a new online betting account during the pandemic.

Green says that “Australia has always had a relatively high propensity to gamble” but the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent closure of land-based casinos and retail outlets led to “much of the population going online for a contactless experience, replicating what they might previously have done in a venue or shop.”

About one in 20 respondents to the AGRC poll started gambling online for the first time during the pandemic. About half of them were women.

The centre also found that respondents gambled more often during the crisis than before it, with the proportion who gambled 4 or more times a week increasing from 23 per cent to 32 per cent.

Green said that “online gambling undoubtedly has elevated risk for problem gamblers.

He said: “It is sometimes said it enables them to lose their homes without leaving them. There is no regulated physical environment which enables intervention or diversion.”

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australia Cashless Pokies legislation