EVERY week in Warrnambool, at least one problem gambler signs a legal document in order to have themselves barred from pokies venues.
The self-exclusion deeds are an initiative of the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) Vic-toria and give venue management the power to “take any reasonable steps to enforce the undertaking not to enter the restricted gaming areas and not to play gaming machines at the nominated venues”, according to the AHA.
Taits Legal solicitor Luke Taylor has been handling self-exclusion deeds in Warrnambool for about three years and said they seemed to be helping problem gamblers come to grips with their addictions and do something about them. Mr Taylor said counsellors usually refer gambling addicts to the process.
“The deed is a document where people undertake to voluntarily exclude themselves from venues,” he said.
“People are very happy when they sign them. They feel they’ve got that protection and they have recognised they’ve got a problem.
“They do seem relieved when they sign.”
Deeds last for a minimum of six months or a maximum of two years.
Mr Taylor said there was nothing to stop people if “they want to sneak in because they’re that desperate but I’ve had a lot of people come in to renew their deeds”.
“I think the majority of people are re-signing, especially people who have had them in place for at least two years. Sometimes they say they thought they’d be OK, but they realise they still need to exclude themselves from venues.
“I had a guy in recently who excluded himself from more than 10 venues in Warrnambool and another city. People who might travel with work often exclude themselves from places where they might be tempted while they’re away for work.”
The six venues in Warrnambool from which people can exclude themselves are Macey’s, City Memorial Bowls Club, Warrnambool Bowls Club, Warrnambool Football Club, Warrnambool RSL and the Whalers Hotel.
“The venues have photos of (people who sign the deed) and they must be in a book in the venues and staff are to be made aware of new people in book,” Mr Taylor said.
“Often they’re ‘regulars’ who are known to the venue (but) essentially the document puts the onus on the person to exclude themself.”
He said he saw an average of one person each week signing the deed during his three years, and that had been reasonably constant over that time.
The AHA website states the deeds are entirely voluntary.
“It is an agreement the individual makes with themselves, for themselves,” the website reads. It involves no other person in any responsibilities — legal or otherwise.”