Gaming Minister in the Northern Territory Faces Criticism over His Unwillingness to Take Sides on Proposed Pokie Expansion

Daniel Williams

The Gaming Minister of Australia’s Northern Territory has been criticised for his lack of decisiveness over the proposed rollout of a large number of new poker machines in Alice Springs.

Iris Capital, a local hospitality giant, has applied for 60 new poker machines, asking the competent authorities for permission to install them in hotels and pubs across the town, including in a number of venues where there were previously no pokies available. According to preliminary projections, the poker machines would add to over 100 new gaming machines that the company has already installed at Lasseters Casino since 2021 when it took over the venue.

However, the latest move of the company has triggered significant criticism in the area, as some community members claimed that, if the local authorities give the green light to Iris Capital’s application, the addition of new poker machines will disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable residents of the region.

Chansey Paech, the Attorney General who is also the only Alice Springs-originating minister of the Northern Territory, was unwilling to directly answer whether he had any concerns over the company’s pokie plans. According to him, it would be inappropriate for him as a minister to make commentary on the matter, considering the fact that Iris Capital’s application could be potentially appealed.

Although he refused to provide more details on his position on the situation, he encouraged people in the central part of Australia to make sure they share their opinion on the application process.

Poker Machines Often Described as Political Issue in Australia

The beginning of the week saw the Government of the Northern territory release some changes to its Code of Practice for Responsible Gambling, including clearer marking and improved signage in gaming areas. The changes were publicly announced on the same day when the applications of Iris Capital closed for submissions.

As explained by Minister Paech, the decision on whether or not to give the green light to the company’s application was in the hands of the Director of Gaming Machines in the Northern Territory.

Controversial poker machines have been described as a political “hot potato” over the last few years. As mentioned above, Mr Paech faced some criticism for being unwilling to engage himself with a firm position on the matter and ultimately take responsibility and commit either way.

According to some of the Gaming Minister’s critics, the addition of new poker machines would only make things worse when it comes to the social problems that are already faced by the town of Alice Springs, such as high rates of poverty, violence, and alcohol abuse.

At the beginning of the week, the peak body of the hospitality industry in the Northern Territory renewed its support for the application of Iris Capital. According to the CEO of Hospitality NT, Alex Bruce, there are many problem gambling cases in various community card game houses that remain unregulated, in the public parks, and in the streets, not to mention online, so the competent authorities should focus on that, rather than making the pubs and clubs’ gaming machines the only focus of their enforcement powers.

Currently, there are limits on the number of pokies that the individual venues in the Northern Territory are allowed to install. Such limits, however, do not apply to the two licensed casinos in the state, Mindil Beach Casino and Lasseters.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.

Daniel Williams

Author: Dale Alvarez