Canberra lags behind most of Australia when it comes to gambling reform

An important research report has been released today that compares ACT gambling regulation to the rest of Australia.

The results are surprising – while Canberra prides itself with its progressive policies and legislation, when it comes to gambling regulation, we are lagging behind other Australian jurisdictions, with arguably the laxest regulatory regime. ACT has the highest concentration of electronic gaming machines (EGMs) after NSW and the laxest limit on maximum bet. Unlike all other states ACT has no regulatory standard for Load Up limit, maximum win and time display in venues which helps players monitor their playing time.

Comparison of the rules for poker machines across a range of jurisdictions

Parameter ACT NSW Vic Qld SA Tas NZ
The maximum amount that can be bet per spin on an EGM $10 $10 $5 $5 $5 $5 $2.50
The maximum amount of money that can be loaded as credits at any one time on an EGM No standard (NS) $7,500 $1,000 $100 Coin Coin $5,979
The maximum amount that can be won on an EGM, also known as ‘jackpots’ N $10,000 $10,000 NS $10,000 $10,000 $500
Duration of time spent playing displayed on an EGM N Y Y Y Y Y Y
minimum percentage of money an EGM will return (pay back) to players 87% 85% 85% 85% 87.5% 85% 78%
Losses disguised as wins Y Y Y N Y N Y

Source: Australia/New Zealand Gaming Machine Standards

This research was commissioned by the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance (CGRA), and funded by a Alliance Partners Anglicare NSW South and ACT (Anglicare), ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and Belconnen Community Services. The research was undertaken by respected researcher Dr Charles Livingston.  A copy of the the Report A Blueprint for effective EGM reform in Canberra can be accessed at the Anglicare website

“This research shows that the ACT Government has a long way to go in relation to gambling reform that prioritises consumer protection and protecting the community from gambling harm” said Rebecca Vassarotti, co-chair of CGRA. “We know that regulation can make poker machines less dangerous and these have been embraced by many other Australian jurisdictions. Simple measures such as reducing the intensity of gambling through bet limits, banning losses disguised as wins, limiting maximums win or ensuring a time display can make a difference but the ACT Government has not taken the lead from other Australian governments around these measures”.

This research has also confirmed some other worrying features of Canberra’s pokie gambling landscape. It confirms that Canberra has second highest concentration of poker machines in Australia. It reminds us that poker machines are causing more gambling harm in the ACT than other forms of gambling. It also highlights the fact that taxation rates on poker machines are amongst the lowest in Australia.

Jeremy Halcrow, CEO of Anglicare NSW South and ACT and a co-chair of CGRA said “This research confirms that most gambling harm is created through poker machine gambling and quantifies the extent of the damage to our community. This research estimates  that almost 1 in 8 Canberrans  are impacted by gambling harm at any one time – whether directly or due to their connection with someone who is struggling with gambling harm. This is not a small problem and should be taken more seriously by the ACT Government. We need to do more to reduce gambling harm in our community”.

Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, highlighted the low rate of taxation of gambling in the ACT that is outlined in the report. She points out “This research highlights the comparative tax rates for gambling revenues across Australia. This comparison shows that ACT taxes at under 20%, are the lowest of any jurisdiction in Australia and less than half that of Tasmania. Given that we know that gambling is producing social harm in quantum of around $214 million each year, surely this needs to be reviewed. Even increasing the rate to the Australian average of 29.9% would see an increase tax revenue of over $17million that should be directed to mitigating harms and growing social and recreational infrastructure outside of gambling venues”.

Mr Halcrow said “This research report provides options for reform that go some way to reducing the negative impact of our high concentration of pokies (the second highest in Australia). Recommendations such as reducing concentration of machines in venues and considering reducing operating hours can go someway to addressing the fact that we have mini casinos operating in many suburban streets”.

“This report is a wakeup call for the whole community. The ACT Government needs to do much more to reduce the impact of poker machines – its time to see gambling reform deserving of Canberra’s reputation as a progressive community, with a government committed to acting in the community’s best interest,” Ms Vassarotti concluded.

CGRA is an Alliance of community organisations and individuals who are actively calling for significant reform of gambling legislation to reduce gambling harm.

Media Comment can be sought from Alliance Members:

Amy Lanham (Anglicare Communication Manager): 0437 321 451

Rebecca Vassarotti: 0408 668 963;

To view the full research report – CLICK HERE


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