A proposed reform would allow pokies in South Australia to accept banknotes. However, many citizens have voiced their opposition. It looks like another controversy is brewing, and gambling is once again the main point of contention.

How It Started

In September, various gambling reforms were introduced to the State Parliament. According to those in favour of the measures, they were meant to bring South Australian gaming laws in line with the rest of the nation.

The Proposal

If passed into law, the various reforms would result in the following:

  • Pokies would be able to accept banknotes, as well as coins.
  • Poker machines would be available to punters on Good Friday and Christmas.
  • A maximum limit on pokies throughout South Australia would be imposed.
  • Those registered as problem gamblers would be barred from pokie venues. This would include casinos, as well as hotels and clubs.
  • Clubs would have an easier time accomplishing certain actions. Examples include, moving machines between locations and merging businesses.

Voice of Support

The proposals were introduced in September by Attorney General Vickie Chapman. According to her, “These measures will increase the usability of our current poker machines cohort and basically bring it into line with the technology interstate.”

She also added that machines accepting coins and banknotes would be closely regulated. In fact, the amount of money inserted could be monitored and controlled. This would help mitigate any damage to problem gamblers.

“We’ve introduced a number of initiatives on the protection of the vulnerable gambler. We will add some more.”

In a later interview with ABC Radio Adelaide, she said no evidence existed to show that pokies accepting banknotes would lead to increased gambling.

A row of poker machines in an Australian casino

Voices of Opposition

While the Attorney General was obviously in favour of the reforms, there were also plenty willing to speak in opposition.

Tim Costello, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, has been a vocal critic of the proposal. According to him, “Reversing this is appalling with all the evidence we have from the other states.”

Costello also cited two reports from the Productivity Commission which recommended ways to minimize harmful gambling. The first option was to slow down the speed of pokies. Meanwhile, the second involved limiting bets to $1 per spin.

SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros also spoke out against the measures. She accused the government of ignoring the warnings of gambling experts. Then, she doubled down on the accusations.

“Today’s announcement is nothing more than a payback, a reward to the AHA [Australian Hotels Association] for last year’s election campaign and the vast sums of money that he gave to the Liberal Party to help it win Government.”

For those keeping score, Electoral Commission SA shows the following donations from the AHA (as of September):

  • Labor Party – $6,652
  • Liberal Party – $42,279.60

The Residents of SA Speak

While the debate raged on, the Australia Institute decided to conduct some research of their own. With the help of Dynata, they conducted an online survey from November 1st through 13th.

The survey included 503 residents of South Australia, and they were asked the following questions:

  • What is your position on the Government’s proposal?
  • Would allowing gaming machines that accept coins and banknotes have a positive or negative effect on problem gambling in South Australia?

The Results of the Survey

Earlier this month, the director of the Australia Institute SA, Noah Schultz-Byard, issues a press release. In it, he stated that the survey results indicated clear opposition from SA residents.

Here are some of the results of the survey:

  • 80% of those surveyed believed pokies accepting banknotes would increase the level of harm.
  • 13% favoured poker machines that could accept any form of money.
  • 41% believed that all pokies should be banned.
  • 41% favoured pokies that only accept coins.
  • 17% responded that the proposed reforms would have no effect on the rates of problem gambling in SA.

Further Reading

If you’d like to know more about the various gambling controversies throughout Australia, please check out the following: