Update: Greens Gambling Reform Announcements

Yesterday the Victorian Greens announced a commitment from the Victorian Labor Government to set default limits on carded play and for reform of the community benefits scheme for club venue operators.

Katherine Copsey, Victorian Legislative Council representative for the Greens, commented that:

‘… plans are currently underway to introduce mandatory carded play to poker machine venues across the state and precommitment, meaning that before you start playing you need to put in a card and a maximum amount that you are willing to lose. … This week the second agreement that the Greens have secured from the government is to set a $50 default limit for poker machines across the state… There will still be scope for an individual to change this amount manually, but when presented with a default what we know is that many people go with it.

The third change we have negotiated is very welcome progress on addressing the much maligned and frequently rorted community benefits scheme. The minister has written to me agreeing that the system is in need of an overhaul and inviting my participation in a process to identify improvements to the scheme… The Alliance for Gambling Reform has calculated that more than 77 per cent of this community benefit money was spent on clubs’ own operations in the last financial year, and that is more than $240 million which could have and should have gone to the community…’

At the outset, the commentary confirms the $50 limit relates only to a default setting on carded play and does not introduce a $50 limit on spend in a 24 hour period.

Card Limits – What we know

The Labor Government announced on 16 July 2023 a significant suite of reforms including the introduction of mandatory carded play with pre-commitment limits.

From December 2023 there has been a trial implementation of mandatory carded play and pre-commitment limits at Crown Casino using the existing ‘YourPlay’ system.

In speaking at an industry forum in June 2024 hosted by MAX Gaming and Community Clubs Victoria, representatives of the Department of Justice and Community Safety provided an update on the ‘rollout’ of the mandatory carded play. The Department advised that it is currently working with two (2) separate working groups – one representing industry with respect to implementation of the reforms, and another representing the technical stakeholders with respect to what the existing gaming hardware and software can accommodate (with a view to maximising utilisation of existing hardware and therefore to reduce implementation cost).

As recently as June 2024 no further information was presented in terms of operational details of the carded play system, other than the intention being to try and achieve implementation with only software modifications. It was advised that there would be further announcements to come regarding a timeline for implementation.

Card Limits – What we do not know

No proposed legislation has been circulated which implements mandatory use of carded play and pre-commitment limits.

Assuming that the legislative amendments are consistent with those to Crown Casino, then there will be a legislative amendment to the GRA required which provides that a venue operator must not allow a person to use a gaming machine unless they utilise carded play with a pre-commitment limit.

The ‘default’ limit initiated by the Greens does not change what a patron can spend under the legislation – it is a technical specification of what the default setting on the card will be and customers will be able to change this default.

Further details will be known when the State either provides further comment on the announcements, or publishes further information to do with implementation and rollout of the reforms.

Community Benefit Schemes

A reform of the community benefit schemes (CBS) was not subject of the State Government reforms announced in 2023.

Currently, a CBS is required to be provided each financial year for all Club venue operators and must demonstrate an allocation of funds for ‘community purposes’.

The Minister can by order in the Government Gazette determine what activities do and do not constitute ‘community purposes’, and specify ‘caps’ on amounts that can be claimed in any particular sub-categories – the current requirements were set on 28 June 2012. A change to this aspect of the CBS can therefore be implemented by the Minister without legislative reform.

The community benefit contribution threshold of 8.33% is defined in the GRA – and therefore an increase to this threshold requires legislative reform.

Further details will be known when the State either provides further comment on the announcements, or publishes orders changing the thresholds for satisfaction of the CBS. We envisage that most genuine bona fide members Clubs will continue to be able to comply with revised guidelines if they are applying their funds in accordance with their purposes.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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