Clubs call for scheme trial

THE region's clubs are calling on the Federal Government to test its highly contested pokie reform before it sets it in stone.

About 80 representatives from Far North Coast organisations gathered at Ballina RSL yesterday to reiterate their opposition to mandatory pre-commitment.

Coincidentally, the meeting occurred an hour after Harry Jenkins stepped down as Speaker of the Federal Parliament.

Liberal MP Peter Slipper was instated as the new speaker, in turn giving up his vote and giving the Government a one-up on the Opposition.

Clubs NSW manager of national affairs Jonathan Chew said yesterday the change of speaker may impact on the pokie reform.

"Mr Wilkie (Andrew Wilkie, Independent MP) said pretty much since he signed the agreement that if he does not get his way in full he will withdraw his support for the Government," he said.

"I guess now the implications of a withdrawal are lessened by the change in speaker. We will have to sit back and wait and see."

The meeting heard that it was a misconception that some clubs could withstand the pokie reforms.

Ballina RSL Club general manager Bill Coulter said mandatory pre-commitment would cost his club more than $3 million to put in place and would reduce the club's revenue by 40%.

He said the club would need financial assistance to implement the scheme but with the predicted revenue loss, he said they would be knocked back.

"It would mean the total decimation of our business," he said.

"The community relies on the organisation to be supportive of the growth and development of Ballina, and we support that.

"But the legislation would remove our ability to do that."

Mr Coulter said the scheme was untested and he would be in favour of seeing a trial.

"We would like to see more research and evidence that the commitment will reduce the level of problem gambling," he said.

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