The government of Victoria has unveiled a range of reforms to gambling in the state, specifically around player protection and gambling harm prevention and particularly targeting gaming machines.
Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, and his Labor government, aim to make player protection in the state ‘the strongest in Australia’ with reforms to electronic gaming machines (EGMs), drafted with Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Melissa Horne.
All gambling machines will be required to have pre-commitment limits and carded play to track customer spend and in turn prevent money laundering.
The load-up limit – meaning the amount of money a customer can put into a machine – will also be reduced from the current cap of AU$1,000 to $100, and a mandatory spin rate of three seconds per game will be implemented to limit the amount a player can lose.
Mandatory closure periods between 4am and 10am will be adopted by mid-2024, affecting all venues except the Crown Melbourne casino. The government claims that some betting venues have ‘staggered opening hours’ meaning customers can move from location to location playing gaming machines.
Summarising the reforms, Andrews remarked: “These reforms will provide the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia – we owe it to all Victorians to take this stance and help those experiencing harm turn their lives around. I look forward to the implementation working group’s input and effort.”
The pre-commitment, carded and play and load-up limits will, however, be subject to industry consultation via working groups. Trials of pre-commitment and carded play policies at the Crown Melbourne will also be taken into account.
Commencing in April, the Crown Melbourne’s policies will be adopted by the end of the year and according to the government’s latest announcement will be used as a test-run for a state-wide, cross-sector strategy.
New measures introduced at the casino include enhanced time limits of 15- minute breaks after three continuous hours of play and 24-hour breaks after 12 hours within a 24-hour period, extra staff powers to enforce such codes as well as further training and support around gambling harm identification.
Moving forward, the Victorian government has included $71m into the 2023 annual state budget to support the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) to support gambling harm minimisation.
The VGCCC will take on most of the responsibilities of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation from 1 July 2024. This further expands the authority’s remit since it was established following the recommendations of a 2021 Royal Commission into gambling regulation in the state.
“Everyone loses when it comes to gambling harm, and it’s not confined to money – people lose their relationships, their jobs and their wellbeing,” Melissa Horne said.
“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 reduce gambling-related harm.”
The adoption of player protection policies at the Crown three months ago – followed by the subsequent planned rollout of these policies state-wide this month – was also accompanied by new safer gambling messaging.
The national government of Anthony Albanese, also a Labor Party official, had previously adopted new messaging and taglines earlier in the year. This saw the ‘gamble responsibly’ tagline replaced by harder-hitting messages, such as ‘Chances are you’re about to lose’ and ‘What’s gambling really costing you?’
This apparent wave of reform is occuring other states as well, with New South Wales’ (NSW) Labor government planning a roadmap for changes by 2024, whilst a parliamentary probe into player protection was launched in September 2022.