Small venues receive more time to adjust to gambling reforms

SMALL pubs and clubs in regional areas will get extra time to adjust to poker machine gambling reforms, after the Labor Government and the Greens reached a deal to pass long-awaited pre-commitment legislation.

While independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick Xenophon have both long campaigned for pre-commitment limits on gamblers, it was not until this week's Labor-Greens deal that similar laws could be passed.

Communities Minister Jenny Macklin said the new legislation would see mandatory pre-commitment rolled out in the Australian Capital Territory, while a nation-wide roll-out was due by 2016.

"We understand, of course, that small pubs and clubs, many of them in regional areas, just aren't the same as the big gaming venues in the city," she said.

"So we have provided for longer implementation timelines for small venues."

Ms Macklin said gaming venues with 11 to 20 machines would also have an extra four years, until 2020, to deliver the pre-commitment technology, while those with 10 or less, could wait until they needed to replace their machines.

The Productivity Commission recently estimated problem gambling cost the nation at least $4.7billion each year, with most problem gamblers spending an average of $21,000 a year to feed their addiction.

"People with gambling problems are six times more likely than non-gamblers to get divorced - and they are four times more likely to suffer from alcohol abuse," Ms Macklin said.

While Mr Wilkie was not entirely happy about changes that were made to the original legislation, by both Labor and the Greens, he largely welcomed the new laws.

New laws will set minimum requirements for harm minimisation, allowing state and territory governments to impose stronger measures.

The legislation also introduces a $250-a-day automatic teller machine withdrawal limit for gaming machine premises, except casinos and some premises in smaller communities.

The National Gambling Reform Bill was referred to another sitting day for second reading debate.

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