An ACT Labor backbencher will seek to amend a government bill to ban poker machines being used in community clubs when the venues are opened as climate refuges. Marisa Paterson wants gambling activity and alcohol service to cease in community clubs which are forced to open their doors during government-declared emergencies. Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury introduced the bill to the Legislative Assembly late in 2022, which will allow the facilities to keep operating even if they are become declared refuges during events like heatwaves or bushfire smoke pollution. Dr Paterson, formerly an academic who studied gambling harm, said it would be highly problematic for the government to facilitate access to venues that serve alcohol and offer gambling during periods of high mental and physical stress. "As long as clubs facilitate gambling activity, particularly poker machines, any government legislation that facilitates or encourages entry to these venues needs to ensure that the risk of people experiencing gambling harm is reduced or zero," Dr Paterson said. MORE A.C.T. POLITICS NEWS: Dr Paterson's amendments to the Gaming Machine (Club Refuge) Amendment Bill 2022, which have been provided to the Assembly's scrutiny committee, would ban the service of alcohol and gambling activity while a government club refuge declaration is in place. "Canberrans should be able to access a safe and inclusive environment when seeking refuge in an extreme event. This means not exposing people to gambling and alcohol in times of extreme stress," she said. Mr Rattenbury last year said it was vital Canberrans could find refuge in venues across Canberra to reduce the risk of heat- and smoke-related illness. "The ACT government has chosen to include clubs as refuges because they are spread out across the territory and therefore can offer good access and ready respite to many community members," Mr Rattenbury said. "Many of these club venues provide our community with access to ventilation and air-cooling systems that many people just don't have in their own homes." Mr Rattenbury said club refuges would be among a range of options available to the community, including libraries, child and family centres, and community centres. The bill, if passed, would allow clubs to claim some expenses of serving as a refuge as community purpose contributions, which are a requirement of poker-machine operators. Mr Rattenbury said the heat and smoke refuge working group was led by two gambling harm reduction experts and two club representatives would assist the government in developing the program. The government expects the program will be in place by December 2023. We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.