Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 June 2018) . . Page.. 1999 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (11.56): The Greens will be supporting this bill because it provides additional scrutiny and transparency over decisions relating to the casino and helps strengthen the requirements around key harm minimisation measures that were introduced last year.
When looking at any legislation related to the casino, there are always a number of considerations to be made. These include how it will affect the gambling model in the ACT; impacts on development; impacts on the life and entertainment options in the city precinct; and, most importantly, how it will minimise gambling harm.
In November last year, this Assembly passed a bill to allow the introduction of poker machines in the casino, while also bringing in nation-leading harm minimisation measures such as $2 maximum bets, mandatory precommitment and a centralised monitoring system. I believe this legislation provides strong protections to ensure that any introduction of poker machines into the casino will not increase harm from gambling in the territory.
At the same time we must recognise that poker machines can be a highly profitable asset and therefore there are many parties with an interest in accessing any available licences. In a town the size of Canberra, where we have a relatively small number of organisations operating large numbers of poker machines, there is always going to be the potential for conflicts of interest to arise.
As long as the ACT government continues to receive revenue from poker machines through gambling taxes, the government, regardless of its political persuasion, will always have an interest in providing more poker machine licences. Of course, that interest is usually counteracted somewhat by a desire to reduce gambling harm in the community. Nevertheless, the government’s motivations and interests in granting authorisations can be brought into question.
The Canberra community should be able to have full confidence that these kinds of decisions are being made in the best interests of the community and not solely in the interests of raising revenue. That is why the Greens support the proposal to establish an independent casino advisory panel to make recommendations about these kinds of decisions.
In particular, it is crucial that the advisory panel must make a recommendation to the minister about whether the proposed activity is in the public interest. The independence and separation of the panel from government are an important factor in giving the community confidence in their recommendation, and this will be enhanced because the advice comes from a panel with expertise in a range of relevant areas, including law, integrity, probity, planning and, of course, gambling harm minimisation.
This bill also includes some important provisions relating to the regulation of social impact assessments. As we learnt last year, while social impact assessments are fundamentally important to reducing gambling harm, they are of little use if the process is not accessible or understood by the general community. Thankfully, those