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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 July 2010) . . Page.. 3219 ..

In estimates and in response to questions in question time this week, the minister indicated that he was keen to bring forward legislation which may centre on options to reduce poker machine numbers across the ACT, bearing in mind that we have the highest number of poker machines per capita of any state or territory. It may also include measures to encourage a greater community contribution from gaming revenue and opportunities for newer housing areas to have access to limited gaming facilities. We understand matters relating to the possible transfer of poker machines will be considered as well.

Overall, though, we support the approach that the ACT government needs to become less reliant on revenue from gaming or poker machines. The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission review paper indicates that the review will cover such things as the licensee’s memorandum and articles of association and relationships between clubs and associated organisations. These are significant changes for many of our long-established clubs. There is a need to ensure that consultation is wide ranging and that any change is carefully considered.

We understand that it is difficult to find the right balance with gaming policy. Gambling is something a significant number of people enjoy. It generates employment. Policy changes need to ensure, as far as possible, that benefits are preserved for those people who enjoy casual gambling while, at the same time, measures are put in place to assist gamblers facing risks or harm. As we all know, there is a significant social cost of problem gambling. In the Australian government Productivity Commission gambling inquiry report, released in June 2010, it was estimated that the cost was at least $4.7 billion across Australia’s 95,000 problem gamblers and the 600,000, or four per cent of the population, that play poker machines at least weekly.

A major issue of concern for the ACT in these statistics is that the ACT Council of Social Service, in their submission to the Productivity Commission gambling inquiry, indicated that the ACT’s regular gamblers appear to be younger than those in other jurisdictions. In the ACT, 25.4 per cent of the 18 to 24 years age group are regular gamblers, as opposed to the national average of 17.8 per cent. Overall, ACTCOSS indicated in their submission that the ACT problem gamblers represent a highly vulnerable group in terms of their age, income and proportion of income directed to gambling.

The 2010-11 ACT Gambling and Racing Commission budget priorities in seeking to address this problem gambling issue centre on developing and enhancing the commission’s community education program relating to problem gambling. Having looked at the Australian government Productivity Commission report, it would seem that a number of their recommendations would be worth while incorporating not only into education around problem gambling but possibly into legislation. In particular, their recommendations to address the emerging issue of online gambling and the risks from offshore sites need to be considered. Others include limiting the amount being bet per “button push”, daily cash limits on club ATMs and relocating ATMs away from gaming areas.

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