Australia: Northern Territory govt lowers pokies cap amid problem gambling concerns

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The Northern Territory (NT) government has lowered the number of poker or slot machines permitted after substantial backlash from the community over hospitality firm Iris Capital’s submission of proposals for installation of 60 extra machines at its Alice Springs properties last year.

In a decision taken on Tuesday, except for the gaming machines at the two casinos in the NT, which are regulated by separate agreements, the maximum number of gaming machines now allowed in communal venues has been decreased from 1699 to 1659.

“Our government is aware that problem gambling creates a significant public health risk to communities across the NT, and that’s why we are doing what we can to reduce availability of gaming machines,” NT Gaming Minister Chansey Paech said.

According to the government, Iris Capital has already withdrawn requests for 40 machines across two of its locations, while requests for another 20 machines at Todd Tavern and Gap View Hotel remain.

Paech, speaking to ABC Radio, said the government is aware of the harms caused by problem gambling. Furthermore, the government has also listened to the community request for no more new machines. “There will certainly be, under a Territory Labor government, less and less, not more and more, pokies across the Territory,” he added.

According to a campaign group called No New Pokies Mparntwe, the announcement is a “significant win in a battle against new pokies”. Emma Buckley Lennox, a member of the campaign group said, “It is a win for everyone who loves to go to Uncles and sit out the front in the sun or get on the mic on a Friday night.”

The largest private employer in the town, Iris Capital has added more than 100 pokies to Lasseters Casino after acquiring it back in 2021, bringing the total number to 400.

Moving forward the casinos will be managed under a new rule that prioritizes harm minimization according to the NT government. Furthermore, the government is constantly promoting responsible gambling, said Paech.