Banknotes will be allowed to be used in poker machines in South Australia for the first time under proposed new gaming laws. The state government says the move will bring SA into line with other jurisdictions and will be strictly controlled to minimise harm.

The proposed reforms, which will be introduced to State Parliament this week, include recommendations that poker machines in South Australia be altered to accept notes, instead of just coins. Punters will also be able to use poker machines on Christmas Day and Good Friday. The reforms also include new harm minimisation measures including immediate barring orders to combat problem gambling.

“The denomination of banknotes and amount of money allowed to be inserted by a player would be strictly controlled to mitigate any potential risk to problem gamblers,” Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said.

The reforms will also strengthen provisions to ban some patrons from pokie venues and will increase the range of programs to benefit from the gambler’s rehabilitation fund.

Sporting and community clubs that hold poker machine licences will be allowed to merge or transfer licences more easily to ensure the viability, and venues will be allowed to open on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

“Through these reforms, we want to strike a balance between supporting an economically viable gaming industry and meeting the broader community’s expectations around responsible and safe gaming,” Ms Chapman said.

Social justice advocate and spokesperson for the Alliance for Gambling Reform Tim Costello said allowing poker machines to accept banknotes was “appalling” and a step backwards for the state.

But the SA-BEST party, which had its genesis with former no pokies MP and senator Nick Xenophon, described the changes as “callous, thoughtless and heartless”.

“Let us be very clear, note acceptors are not a harm-minimisation measure, they are the complete opposite of that,” SA-BEST upper house MP Connie Bonaros said.

However, latest news suggests that the move to allow notes in poker machine may never get off the ground, as the entire Upper House crossbench opposes it.