Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 811 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
When the select committee was established, in addition to reporting on the general question of the social and economic impacts of gambling in the Territory, we were asked to look at a more immediate question, which was how to implement a resolution of this place to put a cap on the number of poker machines in Canberra. There was no provision, however, for us to make a report on that matter. So, my motion seeks to amend the resolution of the Assembly appointing a Select Committee on Gambling.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
MR KAINE (11.18): With that motion now passed by the Assembly, I present an interim report of the Select Committee on Gambling entitled "A Poker Machine Cap", together with extracts of the minutes of proceedings. I move:
That the report be noted.
Members will recall that there was a resolution of the house that there be a cap placed on the number of poker machines to be licensed in the Territory. The committee was asked to have a look at that resolution, and the task resolved itself into a question of whether or not such a cap could be imposed under the existing law; if not, what amendments to the law would be required to enable such a cap to be imposed; and then, finally, if there is to be a cap, at what level it should be set. This interim report deals with those matters.
On the question of whether under the existing law we could legally impose a cap, we took legal advice. It was quite clear that, under the current Act, the commissioner has no discretion to refuse an application for a licence for a gaming machine, provided that the applicant has complied with all of the criteria established in the Act. So, there was no discretion whatsoever and, without amendment to the Act, the commissioner could not decline to issue a licence to any qualified applicant. Mr Speaker, we have attached to the report some draft legislation which we believe would amend the Gaming Act to enable the commissioner to exercise the discretion that we are now speaking of and that we wish to confer on the commissioner. That legislation is necessary before any cap could become effective. So, having made that decision - and with a lot of work done by Ms Tucker, I must concede - we produced a draft Bill that would enable the legislation to be appropriately amended.
We then looked at the question of what the cap should be. Having looked at the number of poker machines already in licensed clubs and other places and the number of applications which were already in the hands of the commissioner and which she was obliged to process in accordance with the law, we have come up with a cap for existing licensed clubs of 5,200 machines. That is, essentially, in round figures, the sum total of machines already held, plus applications already in hand which the commissioner feels that she could not reasonably decline to agree to. So, we are recommending the cap of 5,200 machines for existing licensed clubs.