Wilkie supports cut-down pokie bill

KEY federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie has offered his "reluctant" support to the Federal Government's poker machine reforms.

Mr Wilkie said on Tuesday he had secured two "very important" amendments to the bill after months of negotiations with the government.

The first amendment means specific reference will be made in the bill to the mandatory pre-commitment trial in the Australian Capital Territory and ensure only independent organisations are involved in its implementation.

Mr Wilkie said this would safeguard the trial in law.

The second amendment means all poker machines will be capable of changing to mandatory pre-commitment at the "flick of a switch".

Mr Wilkie said while the changes were a "shadow of the reforms that were agreed after the 2010 federal election between the Prime Minister and myself", he would support the bill.

"I've got to be realistic; what's on the table now is the best we can get. It is worth supporting so I will give it my vote in the house," he said.

He said he would not be the "person standing in the way of getting something done".

In January the Federal Government walked away from its deal with Mr Wilkie to roll out mandatory pre-commitment for all poker machines.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, at the time, the legislation did not have enough support in the parliament to be passed.

She instead flagged a trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the ACT and a plan to expand pre-commitment technology to all poker machines by 2016.

Mr Wilkie said the watered down reform would set a "very important precedent" and would make it easier for future governments to "go further" in combating problem gambling.

"It will be historic for the Federal Government to, for the first time, intervene in the regulation of poker machine gambling in Australia," he said.

"The important thing is to get it into law as soon as we can."

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale and anti-poker machine campaigner Nick Xenophon said they were disappointed with Mr Wilkie's decision.

The Senators said they would not support the bill in its current form.

Mr Di Natale said the Greens would support the reform if the "bill was improved".

This would include legislating to make all machines $1 bet-ready and setting a date for the implementation of one of either $1 bets or mandatory pre-commitment - depending on the outcome of the trial.



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