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Pokies ACT precommitment trial sunk


An ACT trial of precommitment technology for poker machines is dead and has been an expensive "thought bubble", the federal opposition says.

The Canberra pokies trial appears sunk after Canberra clubs on Thursday voted against participating in the trial until after the federal election.

Clubs ACT boss Jeff House said 23 of the organisation's members unanimously agreed not to start the trial until after the September 14 poll date.

The coalition, which doesn't support mandatory precommitment measures for pokies, is likely to dump the trial if it wins government.

Mr House said Clubs ACT would continue to work with the current government on preparations for a trial, while admitting it may never happen.

"It would be a folly to expend the money and resources on starting the trial if it was only going to be cut halfway through by an incoming coalition government," Mr House told AAP.

"Far better to wait until the election result is known."

Under the watered-down anti-gambling measures passed by parliament last year, there was only a passing reference to the trial and no powers to compel clubs to participate.

Mr House blamed Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the Greens interference for delaying the trial, which was originally due to start in February, 2013.

Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews says the trial is completely dead.

"Labor's betrayal of Andrew Wilkie is complete," Mr Andrews told AAP.

"The question Labor must now answer is how much money has been wasted on this thought bubble."

Anti-gambling campaigner and independent senator Nick Xenophon described the clubs' decision as a "cynical self-serving move to stall reform".

"They were the ones that ran an hysterical fear campaign that caused the delay in the first place," he told AAP.

"I've got to give Clubs ACT full marks for sheer brashness. They're reinventing history."

Senator Xenophon said there could be a silver lining, with focus now shifting to the alternative $1 maximum bets concept.

"The industry doesn't tell tall stories; they tell stall stories," Senator Xenophon said.

A spokesman for communities services minister Jenny Macklin said the ACT trial had been "delayed" because of stalled negotiations to pass the federal legislation.

The spokesman said the government and Clubs ACT had started critical preparation work for the trial.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Clubs ACT and the ACT government on the trial," the spokesman said.

Mandatory precommitment technology requires gamblers to nominate the amount of money they are prepared to lose on high-loss machines, which can chew through $1200 an hour.

Greens senator Richard Di Natale hopes the government can salvage something out of the wreck.

"This goes to show that the clubs were never serious about reform. They played the government for fools, just like the mining companies did," he told AAP.

Mr Wilkie says he's disappointed but not surprised with the clubs' decision "given the industry's indifference to problem gambling".

He said regardless of whether a trial goes ahead, the law of the land has mandated that poker machines be capable of using mandatory precommitment in coming years.

"At some point in the future a federal government or state or territory governments ... can go it alone and flick the switch," Mr Wilkie told AAP.