Taxpayers will fork out $1500 each for installation of mandatory pre-commitment technology on pokie machines

By Taryn Davis, Quest Newspapers

Taxpayers will fork out $1500 each in tax to fund the installation of mandatory pre-commitment technology on pokie machines by 2014, according to ClubsAustralia.

But a spokesman for Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin disputed the figure, saying there was “a lot of misinformation in the community about the costs of implementing pre-commitment”.

“The Government’s technical advice indicates that upgrading machines for pre-commitment would cost around $2,000 per machine, where a loyalty system is not already in operation.”

The project is worth $3 billion according to ClubsAustralia who claim it will cripple clubs’ bottom lines.

Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said she didn’t think it was acceptable for “big gambling to profit from other people’s misery”.

“Problem gamblers spend on average up to $21,000 a year – money that isn’t spent on putting food on the table or paying off the family mortgage.

“Clubs are an important part of the community. Local clubs will continue to provide good value services to members, but this need not be at the expense of people who are gambling away their entire family budget.”

State Government figures show there are more than 20,000 pokies in pubs and clubs across southeast Queensland that rake in more than $80 million a month.

According to figures for September, individual pokie machines took more than $4000, but this is below the national average of $5000 per month.

“All the research clearly shows that people, including problem gamblers, do generally set realistic limits for themselves on how much they want to spend,” a spokesman for Minister Jenny Macklin said.

“But once they get into ‘the zone’ their limits go out the window.

“Three-quarters of problem gamblers are pokie addicts.”

A Productivity Commission report says there are up to 159,000 problem gamblers in Australia who contribute 43 per cent to overall electronic gaming machine revenue.

But an Institute of Public Affairs report released last week claims the Productivity Commission’s report uses old data, and says the number of problem gamblers is more likely to be about 60,000.

“Problem gambling exists but appears to be less common than estimated and the justification for heavy anti-gambling nanny state measures should be brought into question,” IPA report author Tim Wilson said.