Australian pokies

Can Australians and pokies ever break up for good, or is the country merely heading for a trial separation in 2017? (Image: AFP)

Pokies and Australians: it’s a love affair that shows no signs of waning. But as some states hint at introducing new viability tests for clubs wanting access, are Australians’ eyes likely to wander in 2017?

A new push for an Australia “free” of pokies launched last month. And so far, it looks like some pubs are keen to sign up to the idea of having no gambling.

Who knows, will going pokie-free become the newest hipster trend to hit city bars?

‘Proudly Pokies Free’ launched in NSW in October with the aim of promoting pubs who eschewed the money-making poker machines. As well as raising awareness of problem gambling Down Under, the campaign also wants change on a federal level.

Several Sydney pubs have already signed up to the movement, and that’s in a state that boasts one of the highest per-capita rates for poker machines. Sydney, of course, has already been slammed in part by a curfew that denies drinkers alcohol in the early hours. If pubs continue to deny them gambling too is Sydney in danger of becoming Australia’s most boring city?

Nick Xenophon’s Push For A Pokie-Free Oz

Of course, it wouldn’t be an anti-pokies movement without Nick Xenophon being mentioned. The veteran anti-gambling senator scored well in the 2016 federal election, and he is keen to put his new power to good use.

Xenophon is teaming up with the Alliance For Gambling Reform to push the government to impose a $1 maximum bet on poker machines. It is particularly important, the group says, to target a rise in problem gambling in youngsters.

The 18-24 year old group spends more on poker machines than any other age group, campaigners argue. The double whammy of restricting wagers and keeping machines out of pubs is a key mission for the reformers.    

Culture Of Pokies Hard To Shift Down Under

The big problem Xenophon and Proudly Pokies Free have is that poker machines are so ingrained in Aussie culture. Australians gambled almost $23 billion in 2015, with half of that sunk into pokies.

Aussie casinos, who are sometimes exempt from restrictions on the numbers of machines placed within states, make a fortune from pokies. Cash-strapped state governments are in no hurry to do away with all that tax revenue.

Campaigners are hoping that the landmark court case between a pokies addict and Crown Casino will change the government’s attitude.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform was in full support of Shonica Guy, who claimed “unfair” pokies at Crown Casino caused her addiction.

But pokies can’t be un-invented. And even in the unlikely event that the government further regulates machines in order to pay out more, we won’t be seeing Aristocrat’s money-spinners hitting the landfill any time soon.

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