The Parliament of South Australia has passed the Statutes Amendment (Gambling Reform) Bill 2013 (SA) which contains reforms to gaming machine (“pokies” in Australian slang) laws under the Gaming Machines Act 1992 (SA) and other gambling legislation. The Statutes Amendment (Gambling Reform) Act 2013 (SA) strengthens responsible gaming environments in an attempt to reduce the number of problem gamblers. While the final version of the Act was significantly watered down from the original bill, it nevertheless imposes a number of new requirements and restrictions on casino and gaming machine licensees. Failure to comply with the new laws will result in significant fines and so licensees should review and modify their current practices to ensure that they are compliant with the new laws.
Some of the amendments have already come into force, however, the bulk of the new laws will be effective from either 1 January 2014 or 1 July 2014. The following changes are effective from 1 January 2014 unless stated otherwise.
Restrictions on gaming machines
- There are a number of new restrictions on gaming machines. These include that gaming machines must not:
- be operated using bank notes;
- use audio as part of the game (except for accessibility);
- return winnings at a rate of less than 87.5% of the total amount of bets; or
- allow a maximum bet of more than $5 (effective from 1 July 2014).
- There are penalties of up to AU$35,000 for breach of these provisions.
Strengthening responsible gambling environments
- Licensees cannot permit ATMs in gambling areas.
- Individuals can be barred from casinos at the individual’s request or if there is a reasonable likelihood that the individual’s problem gambling may harm themselves or others. Effective 1 July 2014.
- The Independent Gambling Authority can prescribe Codes of Practice (including advertising codes of practice) which may require licensees to provide information to patrons regarding responsible gambling, to implement a problem gambling program or to implement particular staff training programs. This has been in force since 31 August 2013.
Regulation of Licensees
- Authorised officers have new powers to investigate payment of casino duties.
- Licensees cannot sell their equipment or games to a person who does not hold a gamer machine dealer’s licence.
- Licensees can only install gaming machines in enclosed areas.
These changes represent a significant shift in the approach of the South Australian authorities to gambling regulation. Casinos and gaming venues in other states and territories should closely watch the implementation of the South Australian system in anticipation of the key provisions of the national pre-commitment technology legislation, National Gambling Reform Act 2012 (Cth), coming into force at the end of 2018.