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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3734..

MR KAINE (continuing):

more important in the longer term - relates to the social and economic impacts of problem gambling. In its response to the committee's report, I believe the Government, clearly, took seriously the concerns of the committee. The arrangements that emerged in the Act to establish the Gambling and Racing Commission generally reflect that.

When the control board was debated in the Assembly in August, the Government agreed to amend the Bill to address some of the concerns of the committee. As well, Assembly members took the opportunity to amend further the Bill to strengthen its powers in relation to our concerns. In particular, the membership of the Gambling and Racing Commission was strengthened by ensuring that one of the members should have knowledge, experience or qualification relating to providing counselling services for problem gambling.

Outside of that, the casino has, in recent months, taken a more responsible approach in its quest to add gaming machines to the range of its legal activities. Attempts to secure gaming machines through unorthodox approaches have been replaced by a more orthodox approach, including offering a significant additional premium for the benefit of the ACT community in exchange for the benefit of having gaming machines. The casino has also acknowledged its responsibility to address problem gambling issues.

I am satisfied that the Gambling and Racing Commission will recognise our grave concerns about the adverse impact of gambling and give the highest priority to ensuring that those problems are addressed. It is also appropriate to acknowledge that Casino Canberra has recognised the effects of problem gambling, and has in place internal procedures to address them. It is also clear that the casino is well equipped to manage problem gamblers.

The Bill does not seek to alter the cap of 5,200 gaming machines currently provided for in hotels, that cap being inserted by this Assembly in the Gaming Machines Act. The number of machines provided in this current proposal to amend the Casino Control Act is reasonable and is capped for 10 years, which is a reasonable safeguard. It represents a small percentage increase in the existing number of machines in the Territory.

Members may be concerned - I know that some of our constituents might be - as to the impact this change would have on ACT residents. I have had the opportunity to study the research of Synaval Pty Ltd, the Victorian-based market research company. This research shows that the majority of visitors to the casino come from interstate or overseas, or are special occasion visitors.

Thus in my view, the introduction of machines into the casino is not expected to result in a dramatic increase in exposure of ACT citizens to such machines, or to materially affect the clientele of existing clubs and hotels. I emphasise that a major factor influencing my decision in relation to this matter was the changed attitude of Casino Canberra in relation to its rights and entitlements under its original licence and the development agreement with the ACT Government. It has been my view, as most will know, that the original licence fee entitled the casino to operate only the games provided in the agreement, and the Casino Act specifically precluded gaming machines.

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