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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 September 2010) . . Page.. 4244 ..

appeared to be younger than the national average. In the ACT, 25 per cent of what ACTCOSS described as regular gamblers were young people aged 18 to 24 years, compared to 17.8 per cent nationally. Between 26 and 36 per cent of problem gamblers in the ACT were aged less than 25 years. In addition, their average income was low, and approximately 30 per cent were on very low incomes or receiving some form of government benefit. ACTCOSS’s view overall was that ACT problem gamblers represent a highly vulnerable group in terms of their age, income and proportion of their income directed to gambling.

Under current arrangements, gambling businesses, mainly not-for-profit clubs, are required to pay seven per cent of their net gaming machine revenue in community contributions. These contributions fall into five broad categories: charitable and social welfare, sport and recreation, not-for-profit activities, community infrastructure and problem gambling support. ACTCOSS reported that, in recent years, the amount of contributions going to community sector organisations, including those to problem gambling, has declined from just over $2 million in 2004-05 to $1.5 million in 2008-09.

In 2008-2009, ACT net gaming revenue was $98,646,938. The proportion of the required seven per cent community contribution allocated by the clubs to the problem gambling support area in 2008-2009 was $407,516, or just 0.413 per cent of the $98.6 million. This is to address an issue affecting about 42,000 people, or 12 per cent of Canberra’s population, affected by problem gambling, and to tackle the challenge of raising awareness among young people in the territory. Across the 42,000 people, that is $9.70 per head per annum. If we look at the 6,000 people who are addicted to gaming machines, it is only about $68 per head per annum.

What is also of considerable concern is that 28 of the 61 clubs, and none of the 12 pubs or taverns, made a contribution to problem gambling. Problem gamblers account for between 22 and 60 per cent of gaming machine revenue, the average being around 42 per cent. There is no evidence to suggest that the ACT is significantly different from the average. It is therefore reasonable to assume that approximately $41 million of gaming machine revenue last year came from problem gamblers, or about $6,830 each.

What this bill does is require that 0.75 per cent of gaming machine revenue goes back to help the vulnerable members of the community and their families who, because of their addiction, are responsible for 40 per cent of that revenue. At present, under a heads of agreement arrangement, a number of ACT licensed clubs fund a clubcare program that delivers, through Lifeline Canberra’s gambling care program, services for problem gamblers.

Despite their best intentions, it is not reasonable that the club industry itself and, in particular, each board of club directors decide how much money is allocated to problem gambling and to whom that money is allocated. Senator Nick Xenophon, in his submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry on gambling, made the very apt analogy that licensees deciding funding for problem gambling alleviation is “akin to the tobacco industry directly funding lung cancer research and having a role in the scope and direction of the research”.

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