ACT to Protect Gamblers

Publish: 20.08.2018

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government looks set to bring in new reforms designed to handle gambling problems by the end of the year. The move comes after the auditor general’s report on the gambling industry which highlighted several problem regions in the ACT sector.

The details of this action are yet to be decided by the authorities. However, it remains clear that the amendments to the current regulations will be finalized by December 2018, as revealed by the ACT attorney-general Gordon Ramsay. He also said that the new rules will update the definition of problem gambling and leave less room for the club staff to make interpretations by themselves. This will help in clarifying what problem gambling really means instead of letting clubs decide on a case by case basis.

The new regulations will help in developing clear guidelines which the staff can follow to spot signs of gambling harm. Board members, as well as club employees, will go through “better training more often” under the new regulations.

More regulations will be added around self-exclusion, enforcement and the role of a gambling contract officer. According to the current regulations, 150 gambling contact officers are present in the ACT clubs providing the first point of contact for problem customers and who are trained to respond to gambling harm.

The new regulations also suggest that a trained staff member must be present on the floor where a poker machine is running. The officers will continue being the employees of the club, however, the authorities can provide some financial support for training these officers.

Ramsay has also signaled that he will be looking forward to making changes to the current regulations that will help in creating stricter penalties and enforcement mechanisms for the gambling watchdog. The gambling watchdog has been under fire since June when it fined a club in the case of Laurie Brown, a high-profile problem gambler. Professor Brown lost over $200,000 at the Raiders Club in Belconnen. The club had broken some poker machine laws and was fined $120,000.

Ramsay has noted his disappointment with the decision previously. One of the key points to be changed will be self-exclusion in which clubs could turn away patrons who had a request to be denied entry earlier but changed their minds later. Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said that the association has been in talks with the authorities to allow self-exclusion schemes to work in Queanbeyan clubs and pubs as well. Further public discussions for the changes will be held in September.