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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 12 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 3724..


Mr Rugendyke, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RUGENDYKE (10:42): Mr Speaker, I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I present this bill today as a straightforward amendment to the Gaming Machine Act that, in essence, removes the provision for 24 - hour poker machine operations in the ACT. Presently, licensed clubs have the ability to have their gaming machines operating around the clock. We have seen a scattering of clubs plug into the 24 - hour trading across the city. In my own electorate I can think of venues in Belconnen, Macquarie, Holt and Charnwood which are part of the trend.

My attitude to poker machines has been clearly stated. It was only yesterday in this chamber that I was reminding members that we do have too many poker machines in the territory. According to the Productivity Commission, the ACT is second only to New South Wales at the top of the tree for poker machine spending in the country. We are way above the national average, which is not a record to be proud of.

Poker machines are at the core of problem gambling in our community. They prey on the most vulnerable people in society and they can be a destructive form of addiction. I am seriously concerned that we are not adequately protecting our problem gamblers. Certainly, the increasing prevalence of 24 - hour poker machine operations is not helping the situation.

The advent of 24 - hour poker machine operations is in direct conflict with the laws that we have in place for alcohol sales under the Liquor Act. The Assembly has determined that 24 - hour liquor sales are not appropriate as a rule. Licensed premises are compelled to cease selling alcohol for a minimum of three hours, commencing at either 4.00 am or 5.00 am, depending on the arrangements with the registrar under the liquor regulations.

We have a situation where they turn the beer taps off, but the poker machines are allowed to keep on kicking, chewing up as much money as possible. We have a policy whereby we make it compulsory for drinkers to take a break, a practice which sends a clear message that there is a point at which you have to say that you have had enough, but we do not demonstrate the same sort of care for gamblers.

Mr Speaker, I have drawn on the expertise of Lifeline, which has a fine reputation for dealing with gambling problems, in researching this matter. I have discussed this issue at length and Lifeline is of the firm opinion that we have to give poker machine gamblers a break. We have to take away the temptation and give gamblers a break from the battering that they are giving their finances and their self - esteem. What I am proposing to do is to put in place a regulation for gambling machines that mirrors what we have in place for liquor or bar operations.

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