Jacinta Allan takes aim at pokies with first legislative move

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New laws limiting the opening hours of poker machine venues will be the first legislation introduced by Premier Jacinta Allan when Victorian parliament returns on Tuesday.

The reform was part of changes to the rules governing the electronic gambling industry announced by the state government in July.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan holds her first cabinet meeting as leader on Monday.

Former premier Daniel Andrews, who resigned last week after nine years in power, previously claimed the reforms would give Victoria the toughest gambling and anti-money laundering measures in Australia.

Under the new law, which will come into effect by mid-2024, all gaming machine areas in all venues, except Crown casino, will be forced to shut between 4am and 10am.

The legislative change will bring Victoria in line with other jurisdictions, including NSW and the Northern Territory, where poker machine areas in pubs and clubs close between 4am and 10am.

Gaming Minister Melissa Horne, who kept her portfolio after a cabinet reshuffle on Monday, said having a break in play is an important gambling harm prevention measure as it gives people a chance to stop and consider the decisions they are making.

Victorian Gaming Minister Melissa Horne.Credit: Gus McCubbing

“Our previous reforms have delivered stronger oversight of the gambling industry in Victoria with a regulator unafraid to hold venues to account – now we’re doing more important work to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm,” Horne said.

“We’ve seen predatory behaviour from some venues, allowing people to keep gambling for hours, at any hour. Closing gaming areas between 4am and 10am will give people an important break to reassess and walk away.”

The legislation will also extend Horne’s powers to ban betting on sporting matches involving minors or taking bets on lower-tier amateur sport, even if the games are outside of Victoria.

In August, Australia’s largest poker machine operator, The Endeavour Group, voluntarily responded to the reforms by adjusting the opening hours of its gaming machine areas so that they would be closed between 4am and 10am ahead of the law change.

At the time, Endeavour Group chief executive and managing director Steve Donohue said the company was well-placed to make the changes required to support ongoing improvements in harm minimisation.

“We are pleased to be able to start implementing these steps from now as most of them are broadly in line with what we are already doing,” he said.

The state government has also promised to introduce new laws to force all Victorian gamblers to set binding limits on daily poker machine losses, but has so far refused to put a timeline on the reform. Venues, including the clubs sector, had until September 20 to provide feedback to the government.

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