The ACT government will closely watch a NSW trial of cashless poker machines, with a new ministerial advisory council made up of gambling reform advocates and clubs representatives expected to weigh in on whether the model could work in the territory.
The council will help to pave the way for the government’s proposed gambling reforms, including slashing the number of poker machines across Canberra clubs to 3500, introducing $5 bet limits and $100 load-up limits.
ACT Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury said he expected there would be difficult conversations in the group, after years of ongoing tension between some clubs and the government.
“I expect there will be some really frank, robust and at times difficult conversations,” he said.
“But in having people with different views in the room, I think it’s really important to hear each other’s perspectives.”
Among the issues to be explored by the group will be whether the ACT should look at introducing cashless poker machines.
On Monday, it was announced NSW would trial cashless pokies at a Newcastle club, with the trial to start in September.
While the ACT government has pledged to conform or exceed NSW reforms in the Labor-Greens power-sharing agreement, ACT Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury stopped short of announcing plans for a cashless trial in the territory.
The Labor-Greens power-sharing agreement said the territory would: “match or exceed any further harm reduction gaming reforms commenced in NSW, such as cashless gaming”.
But Mr Rattenbury said the ACT would not move to do its own trial before NSW did.
“We’ll be watching that very closely,” he said.
“This to me is a very positive initiative. We don’t know much about the technology at this stage in terms of how easily it’s rolled out or what the cost is.
“We’ll be looking for that evidence as quickly as we can to see whether it’s the right measure [and] whether we might combine it with some of the things we are putting in place.”
ClubsACT president Kim Marshall, who will sit on the council, said she would advocate for the interest of the organisation’s member clubs. She will also keep an eye on the NSW trial.
“We have a view on using technology, any form of digital technology to improve our member experience and to reduce our overheads to ensure we are going to be sustainable businesses into the future,” Ms Marshall said.
Kate Seselja, who a former poker machine addict will also sit on the council. Ms Seselja’s addiction led her to set up the non-for-profit organisation The Hope Project.
“I support the reforms that were put together [in the parliamentary agreement],” she said.
“I think it’s just a matter of sitting down together and trying to work together to create these outcomes.”