Cashless gambling machine argument in Victoria, Australia, intensifies

  • Card-pay pokies cause concern for anti-gambling groups
  • Victoria government wants to allow cashless play in clubs

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation is making changes to the law that will allow cashless gambling machines to be used in Australia’s pubs and clubs, reports Pro Bono Australia.

'Excessive' usage of slot machines, known locally as pokies, in Australia, has drawn the attention of the authorities.
‘Excessive’ usage of slot machines, known locally as pokies, in Australia, has drawn the attention anti-gambling campaigners who are dismayed at the prospect of cashless gambling.

Anti-gambling advocates have called for the public to reject the government’s proposal, citing fears of an increase in problem gambling and player losses.

Ministers in Australia have also introduced laws to increase poker machine taxes from pubs and clubs that exceed a set earnings threshold, prompting criticism that the government is money-spinning at the expense of public safety.

Cashless gambling starting to pick up pace

While the retail industry has been embracing cashless payment options and encouraging greater use of digital payment methods, the gambling sector has stuck with traditional currency handling and management options – often at a greater expense.

Demand for cashless payment on services like drinking and dining have increased by 79%, reported the Gambling Business Group earlier this year, and casino players are starting to demand the same access to digital payment methods.

Crown Casino and other commercial venues have already gone cashless, and users have responded positively to the change.

Using cashless payment methods increases the personal safety and security of the player, ensuring they are not carrying large amounts of cash to and from the casino or club. It also benefits the operator, who can track play data and learn more about their consumers.

This will improve marketing efforts in the future, and it also helps responsible operators to identify and intervene in problem gambling patterns. The benefits of going cashless are clear – but concerns from the anti-gambling lobby could hold up any progress within the industry.

Future of pokies still uncertain amid debate

Plans for higher taxes on high-earning pub and club pokies have been met with a mixed response. Operators will certainly feel the pinch on their profits when the higher rates kick in, but machine number allowances for individual premises have been raised to account for this loss.

The total number of machines allowed in Australia has been capped by the government until 2042.

However, anti-gambling campaigners feel not enough is being done to tackle rising addiction rates and spiralling losses.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform says that using cashless pokies can lead a player to misjudge how much they are spending – and losing. “The VCGLR or treasury has very likely already assessed how much poker machine losses would increase by if cashless gaming is given the green light,” said AGR’s Tony Mohr.

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