Monday, 24 June 2013
Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012, Anti-Money Laundering Amendment (Gaming Machine Venues) Bill 2012, Interactive Gambling Amendment (Virtual Credits) Bill 2013; Report from Committee
On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, I present the committee's final report, incorporating dissenting reports, Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012, Anti-Money Laundering Amendment (Gaming Machine Venues) Bill 2012, Interactive Gambling Amendment (Virtual Credits) Bill 2013, together with evidence received by the committee, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Thank you. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly provide a few final comments on the work of the committee over the past three years. In essence, I believe that the committee has produced valuable work which I trust will help progress further reforms to minimise the harm from gambling in Australia.
The committee's first report covered the design and implementation of a mandatory precommitment system for electronic gaming machines. Of course the government ultimately decided on voluntary precommitment, and this is examined in the committee's fourth report on the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 and related bills.
As I have stated previously, my personal view is that the government should have gone much further and achieved more during this parliament in the area of the poker machine reform. Mind you, the government's modest reform is at least a start, and one that establishes the precedent of federal government intervention in poker machine regulation and rolls out machines and systems capable of mandatory precommitment at the flick of a switch at a future point in time.
The committee's second report covered interactive and online gambling and gambling advertising and a related bill. It looked at access to casino type games via overseas sites and sports wagering via domestic providers. Originally I indicated that the best response to Australians using unregulated overseas websites to access casino type games would be to allow Australian operators to offer limited gaming options with appropriate harm minimisation and consumer protection measures in place. But, having seen more evidence and taken more advice, I have decided that the best response is not to liberalise the Australian market, but rather to tighten it up and put in place strategies to deter Australians from accessing the dangerous offshore sites.
Responding to the continuing concern over the promotion of gambling services in sport, the committee undertook another inquiry, and the committee's fifth report was tabled recently, covering the advertising and promotion of gambling services in sport and a related bill.
The committee's third report considered the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. This report emphasised the importance of preventative measures as well as treatment and emphasised that it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to minimise harm rather than just the individual affected by problem gambling.
The report card is in for gambling reform for this government. My personal view is that, overall, progress has been made, but it has been disappointingly modest. Yes, the federal government stepping into the area of gambling reform is positive and leaves the door open for further reform. And, yes, while voluntarily precommit being rolled out is pretty useless, at least the machines will be capable of mandatory precommit.
But that leaves so much work still to be done—for instance, the government really does need to look again at including maximum $1 bets in the mix of measures to address poker machine harm. Obviously, this would be simple for people to understand and compatible with precommitment as an additional level of harm minimisation. And it was recommended by the Productivity Commission.
More broadly, the action apparently being taken to reduce gambling advertising during sport is welcome. Although again, I believe it should go further and there should be a total ban not only on live odds promotion, but in fact on all gambling advertising during sport. My thanks go to Mr Tom Waterhouse for becoming the catalyst for the overwhelming message from the community to reduce the amount of gambling advertising during sport.
During its enquiries, the committee heard about the need for more research, the need to improve the evidence base, the need to fill knowledge and data gaps, the need to improve coordination and that need to develop the national research capacity. I note that the Australian Gambling Research Centre within the Australian Institute of Family Studies will be established from July this year, and that is welcome. While this does not completely fulfil the call for a national independent gambling research centre, it is a positive development nonetheless.
In closing, I wish to thank all the people and organisations who contributed to the committee's inquiries. It appears that achieving meaningful reform in this area will be a marathon rather than a sprint, but I do believe that the work of the committee has drawn necessary attention to the area of gambling and the harms it can cause. I trust that the work of the committee and the wealth of information gathered and contained in its reports will continue to be used to progress gambling reforms.
I also wish to thank committee members for their spirit of cooperation of the life of the committee. I would like to thank especially the committee secretary, Lyn Beverley, for her excellent advice and support and the committee secretariat more broadly for their first-rate efforts. I commend the report to the House. I move:
That the House take note of the report.