Victoria ahead on preset pokies

VICTORIAN poker machine venues will have to install controversial technology two years earlier than required by federal law, allowing punters to preset how much they are willing to lose.

Last month, the federal government finally passed pokies reforms but only after the legislation was watered down, with venues given at least an extra two years, 2018 at the earliest, to introduce voluntary precommitment. But Victorian Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien says the Coalition ''remains committed to requiring precommitment technology on all gaming machines in Victoria in 2015-2016''.

''Victoria is leading the nation in gaming reform in Australia and we will not compromise on our policy to suit the ever-changing policy on the run of the Gillard Labor government,'' he said.

Under the Commonwealth laws, venues with more than 20 machines - that is, most Victorian venues - have until 2018 to have precommitment on pokies. Venues with between 11 and 10 have until 2022 while those with 10 or fewer have no deadline but are expected to get the technology with the turnover of old machines.

The package of reforms are designed to curb problem gambling on pokies and had been a troublesome political issue for the Gillard government since Prime Minister Julia Gillard's deal with independent Andrew Wilkie in 2010 for a mandatory scheme.

Under the watered-down laws - Ms Gillard reneged on the deal with Mr Wilkie in January - pokies are required to be mandatory precommitment ready, so the system can be turned on if a trial in the ACT proves effective.

Mr O'Brien said the state government's voluntary precommitment policy was ''broadly compatible'' with the Commonwealth laws. The Brumby government introduced the first push to precommitment in Victoria. From July this year, ATMs were banned from Victorian gaming venues, with early statistics indicating a slowing down of spending with a $62 million drop in expenditure.

Mr O'Brien said the government's establishment of an independent responsible gambling foundation and the introduction of venue support workers to help gaming room staff were a model for the rest of the country. ''The Coalition government is working closely with the industry in Victoria to ensure that precommitment technology supports responsible gambling and is implemented in a practical and cost-effective manner,'' he said.

The state government expects to announce further details of the precommitment system in the first half of next year. The Gillard government legislation also sets an ATM withdrawal limit of $250 in gaming venues, but in states where laws are tougher, such as Victoria's ATM ban, state laws prevail.

The federal government said it welcomed moves towards voluntary precommitment.

This story Victoria ahead on preset pokies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.