Expect problem gambling to worsen under reforms

Poker machines

Giving gamblers ready access to cash and allowing electronic gaming machines to accept banknotes will only worsen the situation for problem gamblers in South Australia.

That’s the view of researchers at the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies (SACES) at the University of Adelaide.

“If the gambling reforms are passed, South Australia will stand alone as the worst gambling jurisdiction in the nation for its ability to allow gamblers to access easy cash in a gaming venue.”Associate Professor Michael O’Neil

SACES has been a leader in analysing the economic and social impacts of gambling activities, particularly electronic gaming machines, for more than 20 years.

Speaking about the State Government’s amendments to South Australia’s gambling laws, which are currently before Parliament, SACES Executive Director Associate Professor Michael O’Neil says:

“The State Government has argued that its reforms will help protect the community ‘against gambling-related harm’. To say that these proposed amendments are concerned with ‘harm minimisation’ contradicts all serious gambling research.”

At the heart of his concerns is the proposed introduction of so-called “note acceptors”, allowing electronic gaming machines to accept banknotes rather than coins only.

“The introduction of note acceptors compounds an existing problem in South Australia: easy access to cash through EFTPOS inside a gaming room and ATMs inside venues with gaming facilities,” Associate Professor O’Neil says.

“Other states have banned ATMs and EFTPOS in gaming machine areas of clubs, hotels, and in most casinos,” Associate Professor O’Neil says.

“If the gambling reforms are passed, South Australia will stand alone as the worst gambling jurisdiction in the nation for its ability to allow gamblers to access easy cash in a gaming venue.”

Associate Professor O’Neil says research in Australia and overseas clearly demonstrates the introduction of note acceptors has reinforced problem gambling behaviour. By contrast, other research has shown that bans on the use of note acceptors have resulted in a reduction in gambling turnover, and a significant drop in the number of gamblers and relatives making calls to gambling helplines.

Associate Professor O’Neil has called on the State Government to follow the lead of the Victorian Government and ensure that gambling data, at the level of individual venues, be made publicly available to enable a full assessment of the impact of gambling.

“The lack of transparency and the poor record of serious gambling research commissioned in South Australia provides a veil of secrecy that is certainly not in the public interest,” Associate Professor O’Neil says.

“It reflects a lack of maturity in policy debates, leaving policy makers to fall back on conjecture and assumptions, or the powerful influence of lobbyists and industry.”

www.adelaide.edu.au/saces

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