South Australia pokies fans take heed. The maximum size of single-spin bets on poker machines throughout the state have been formally reduced by half to $5. Compliance with the new law is mandatory. Venues who fail to set their poker machines to accept no more than $5 per spin by today could be shut down by the state government.
The SA government announced upcoming gambling reforms back in 2013, flagging a reduction in pokies bet limits to come. The purpose of reforming the Gaming Machines Act was to help protect Australians from the harms of problem gambling, as well as eliminating much of the red tape faced by poker machine venues.
$5 Bet Limit Still Too High?
Many anti-gambling lobbyists and activist groups had argued that the bet limit should be reduced to $1 per spin, and now that the new max bet of $5 has been set in stone, not everyone is pleased with the outcome.
Communities Minister Zoe Bettison is on board with South Australia’s pokies limitations. She admitted that gambling is a “popular Australian pastime”, but argued that its prevalence has contributed to the rapid development of gambling addiction in some people.
“By reducing the maximum bet limit, we hope to reduce the amount problem gamblers can lose while they are gambling,” said Bettison.
Senator Nick Xenophon didn’t quite agree, arguing that a $5 pokies bet limit isn’t nearly enough to quell the rate of problem gambling in Australia. Xenophon confirmed that he and state MLC John Darley will not rest until their push for a $1 limitation is realized.
“The challenge is to wind back the damage done by existing venues,” said the Senator.
Mark Henley, Manager of advocacy group Uniting Communities, said the Productivity Commission recommended back in 2010 that all Australia pokies be reduced to $1 bet limits. The commission felt such a stark decrease was the only practical solution to lower the potential for harm.
“Poker machines can be played at over 20 spins per minute, so a $1 per spin bet limit still gives a $20 per minute spending rate,” expounded Henley. He said that’s still “higher than almost all other recreational activities.”
By those calculations, the previous max bet rate of $10 per spin allowed players to lose up to $200 per minute, while the new $5 max bet still puts players at risk of losing $100 per minute.
Xenophon and his team aren’t the only ones pushing for $1 limits, though. Coles Supermarkets, the second largest supplier of pokies venues in the country (behind Woolworths), would also like to see pokies bets reduced to $1 per spin. Woolworths, on the other hand, was solidly against the idea. Both earn a significant portion of their revenue from poker machines.
South Australia Pokies Venues Must Comply
As of today, Sunday, January 1, 2017, all SA pokies venues must comply with the new rule. Any venue who’s poker machines continue to accept anything higher than a $5 bet per spin will have their operation shut down, at least until such time as compliance is met.
State officials are optimistic the majority of pokies venues will comply with the new rules. However, they’re viewing the situation with eyes wide open, anticipating about 500 venues will be forced to shut down due to non-compliance.