|ATM ban near pokies a security risk: clubs
By Jano Gibson - Forbes Advocate (NSW Regional, 15 January 2009)
THE registered clubs industry will use the recent explosive attacks on automatic teller machines to press its case against banning ATMs from poker machine venues.
Almost a quarter of Australia's 25,600 ATMs are in clubs and pubs, from which more than $9 billion a year is withdrawn.
Anti-gambling advocates believe easy access to cash via ATMs increases the risk of gambling addiction and have called for the machines to be removed from poker machine venues.
The removal of ATMs will be investigated by the Productivity Commission, which is taking public submissions as part of its national inquiry into gambling.
A submission from Clubs NSW, to be finalised in March, will argue that an ATM ban would put its members at risk of being robbed at street-based ATMs or in harm's way of organised criminal activity.
"There have been dozens of attacks on ATMs during the past few months but not one has been committed on an ATM located in a club," the chief executive of Clubs NSW, David Costello, said.
"I doubt any criminal would be so stupid as to attack a club ATM given the presence of the club's reception, security guards and CCTV cameras, as well as the dozens of people walking through the club foyer at any time of the day or night."
He said there was no evidence that the removal of ATMs from poker machine venues would help problem gamblers. An ATM ban would simply cause a "huge inconvenience" to club members, especially in areas where the only ATM is in a club, he said.
"The current system works extremely well. Club ATMs do not accept credit cards and cannot be placed in the gaming area."
But Senator Nick Xenophon, who last year introduced a bill to Federal Parliament to ban ATMs from poker machine venues, said Clubs NSW was being hypocritical.
"It's a bit rich for Clubs NSW to be worried about people losing their money outside venues when so many of the patrons lose their shirts inside," Mr Xenophon said.
In NSW, clubs and pubs generated more than $4.6 billion in poker machine revenue last year. "It's clear, talking to problem gamblers and counsellors, there's a compelling link between easy access to cash via an ATM at a venue and problem gambling.
Having that access fuels the addiction," Mr Xenophon said.
The anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello said ATMs in poker machine venues played a pivotal role in gambling addiction.
"When you have to walk out of a venue because you are out of money, the reality kicks in and you have much greater chance of walking to your car and going home," he said.
Clubs NSW's safety concerns were "patently ridiculous".
"We've got ATMs all over the street all over Australia without banks or customers saying, 'They are unsafe, please put them indoors.' " | End