The government is aiming for a total of 3,500 poker machines in territory clubs by 2024, as outlined in the Labor-Greens power-sharing agreement. There are currently 3,611 electronic gaming machines in operations across Canberra, but 3,863 machine authorisations.
The impact of Covid-19 lockdowns has resulted in clubs losing out on crucial income, meaning the government will have to adapt its approach to reduce poker machines.
That is according to Minister for Gambling Shane Rattenbury, who says deliberate policy measures would be necessary over the coming years in order to bring the number of machines down to 3,500. Options are also being explored to have some clubs go pokie-free.
“There's no doubt the pandemic has been an economic setback for the clubs, they're in that hospitality space and we've seen the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit,” said Rattenbury.
“So the clubs have done a great job across the pandemic, but it has had an impact on them and I think that is something we need the government to take into account as we think about these transition plans.”
The comments come amid the next round of funding for the ACT Government's diversification fund. Developed in 2019, the fund is financed by clubs which are required to contribute AU$20 (US$14) per month for the first 99 poker machine licences they hold.
Clubs can then apply for finances from the fund to use for projects that help diversify revenue streams away from pokies.