Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 73..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
To the end of part 2, the new bill is virtually identical with the old legislation. Part 3 deals with the granting of casino licences, and the major difference is the reference to eligibility. Whilst there is more clarity of meaning with the change from the fit and proper person test to the setting out of a number of disqualifying grounds, such as a criminal conviction in the last five years in the ACT for an offence involving fraud or dishonesty or against a law about gaming, we do have some problems in relation to that, but more of that later.
The administrative arrangements for disciplinary action have been clarified with respect to natural justice provisions and the new show cause clause. An addition is that it is a ground for disciplinary action against a casino licensee if they fail to give information required to be given under this act or the control act, such as a tax return. Another new ground for disciplinary action is that the owner is not or is no longer an eligible person. Part 4 has been rewritten so that it is actually consistent with the Gaming Act, and the term of the licence has been lengthened from one year to two. Casino personnel are also subject to the eligibility criteria used for owners. There used to be two classes of personnel: operations and key personnel. There is now only one class and one set of fees. Short-term licences for personnel have been extended from three months to six months because of the delay in police checks last year. We would suggest that that is probably because of there being a lack of police in the territory.
Part 5 of this bill, which concerns casino operations, is the same as the provisions of the existing act, but the administration procedures have been improved. For example, in the past a casino operator had to provide a detailed floor plan showing the placement of tables, and an operator who wanted to move a table had to go to the commission in relation to that. That could take weeks. There have been modifications in that that can be done now and, if the commission has a problem and lets the casino operator know, that would be stopped. If they do not hear from the commission within a week, they do not have to go through that rather needless formality.
The operating hours have been clarified. There are now core hours-from 5.00 pm to 2.00 am-that the casino must operate. It can operate outside that time, but patrons have to be given 24 hours notice. That guards against the casino operators being able to manipulate opening times to affect gambling activities. Children are now prevented from entering the casino. In the past, they were able to go in if they could not see gaming taking place, which was rather quaint and probably rather difficult to enforce. Now, anyone under the age of 18 simply cannot go in.
The opposition does have some amendments. We have considerable concerns in relation to the five-year period in clause 7 of the bill, which relates to disqualifying grounds for an individual. It refers, firstly, to an individual who has been convicted or found guilty in the last five years, whether in the ACT or elsewhere, of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty or against a law about gaming; secondly, to an individual who has been convicted or found guilty in Australia in the last five years of an offence punishable by imprisonment for at least one year; and, thirdly, to an individual who has been convicted or found guilty outside Australia in the last five years of an offence that, if it had been committed in the ACT, would have been punishable by imprisonment for at least one year. There are also provisions in relation to an individual who is an undischarged bankrupt or who at any time in the last five years was one or had executed a personal