Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 812 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
There are a couple of problems associated with that, however. I am sure that most members would be aware that there are a couple of clubs, at least, currently in construction - two at Gungahlin that we know of - which are not yet at the stage where they could apply for licences. The committee was aware that, if we simply imposed a cap that excluded clubs at that stage of their development, then they could reasonably claim that they had been materially disadvantaged by a law passed today or tomorrow.
So, what we are suggesting is that, over and above the cap of 5,200 machines which are permissible within existing and operating licensed clubs, the commissioner be given the discretion to issue additional licences to clubs in the category that I described - which are not yet at the point where they could legitimately submit an application but which will be at that stage within the next few weeks or months - so that they will not be disadvantaged. They have obviously built, or are building, their clubs on the assumption that they would have access to poker machines under the existing law. To deny them machines would mean that the whole basis of their costing and constructing the building and establishing the club would go by the board. So, we have recommended a discretion for the commissioner to issue additional licences to clubs in that category.
The only other issue that I want to comment on, Mr Speaker, is the question of hotels and taverns. Members will know, and the Government will be well aware, that the AHA and others have been seeking to have poker machines extended beyond licensed clubs into hotels, taverns and the like. Indeed, some machines already exist in hotels and taverns; but the problem is that they are of a lesser order of technology than those used in clubs. Furthermore, there is a very tight restriction on the number of such machines that can be located in any hotel or tavern. The AHA members feel that they are disadvantaged vis-a-vis the clubs and have sought to have the existing law changed. They gave evidence to the committee; but from our viewpoint, of course, we had to make the point that we are looking at the licensing and the imposition of a cap under the existing law.
We were unable to look at what might occur in the event that the Government made a decision, at some time in the future, to extend poker machines outside of licensed clubs. We have simply noted in the report that, should the Government do that, then it would be necessary to increase the cap to make some provision for the licensing of machines outside of the licensed clubs and beyond perhaps the numbers that are currently licensed for hotels and taverns. It is just a warning, which the Government might need to keep in mind, that by imposing a cap there is no provision whatsoever in that cap for extending poker machines outside of licensed clubs at the present time.
The only other matter that I should comment on is that we are recommending that this cap continue for one year, Mr Speaker. We believe that the whole question of gambling, social attitudes to gambling today and what the community expects from this legislature in terms of control of such activity should be resolved within a year. There are a couple of reports due. This committee will be reporting by about February of next year on the social and economic impacts that we see for the ACT. So, we believe that a one-year cap will allow those broad issues to be debated and dealt with. Then, if there is the desire to do anything beyond 24 June next year, in terms of controlling the number of licences and where those licences should apply, it could be the subject of further legislative change at that time. Mr Speaker, I commend the report to the Assembly. As I indicated, there is some draft legislation there, which we will be asking the Assembly to look at.