Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017; In Committee

12:10 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

I do admit to being slightly Delphic last night, but that was on account of never wanting to presume the determinations of our party room. We had a party room meeting this morning. As I indicated last night, the Senate had offered an opinion as to what should happen in this matter, and I said the government would be cognisant of that. The government has been cognisant of that, so I can advise colleagues that the Turnbull government will introduce legislation tomorrow into the House of Representatives to ban betting on lotteries and keno games.

The government has formed the view that permitting betting on these services, also known as synthetic lotteries, does undermine the longstanding community acceptance of official lottery and keno products. These products enjoy community support, as they generate an income stream for small retail businesses and make a significant contribution, through licence fees and taxation, to the provision of public services and infrastructure by state and territory governments. Traditional lotteries and keno games are popular and longstanding recreational gambling products that form an important income stream for thousands of small businesses across Australia, including newsagents, pharmacies, pubs and community clubs. They also generate significant taxation revenue for territory and state governments, helping to fund schools, hospitals, public transport and roads.

Online services offering products that involve betting on lottery outcomes are relatively new and have generated considerable community concern. Since these concerns were first raised last year, the government has listened carefully to a range of groups that have views on the undesirability of permitting betting on these products.

Many Australians enjoy lotteries and keno as a recreational activity, and the government is committed to ensuring that gambling takes place under a robust legislative framework with strong consumer protections and within the boundaries of community standards. The legislation will commence operation six months after its passage through the parliament to ensure that those businesses currently offering online betting on lotteries and keno have an appropriate transition period within which to cease their activity.

I might just cast back a little bit. A number of colleagues in this place last year—Liberal colleagues, Nationals colleagues and Pauline Hanson's One Nation, who have been very active in this area—raised the issue of the synthetic lotteries and the fact that they were causing considerable concern at that stage, particularly to newsagents. As a result, I wrote to the Northern Territory gaming minister to raise these concerns, as Lottoland is registered in the Northern Territory. Subsequent to that, it was announced by the Northern Territory that betting on lotteries in Australia would not be permitted under that licence. But there was, however, still the capacity for bets to be placed on the outcomes of overseas lotteries, and also there was the emergence of betting on the outcome of keno. This is something that was of concern to pubs and clubs, and representative bodies such as the Australian Hotels Association, so that's something that we looked at very seriously. As I say, it's something that numbers of colleagues, including Senator Hanson, raised with the government. We have taken a look at it, and, as I indicated, it is the decision of the government to introduce legislation tomorrow into the House of Representatives to ban betting on lotteries and keno games.


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