Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 845 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The commissioner can also consider other matters that may be relevant. One example of a very important factor that I believe should also be taken into consideration is the processes that have been used by clubs to attract members. Of course, the commissioner will also have to be satisfied that the applicants for a new licence or variation to a licence have satisfied all the existing criteria in the legislation - that the club is an eligible club, as defined by the legislation, and that the application complies with other necessary requirements.
Mr Speaker, this legislation also contains a mechanism that will empower the commissioner with the discretion to allocate machines above the cap to new community-based clubs; that is, clubs that do not hold a gaming machine licence at today's date - 24 June 1998. Mr Kaine outlined yesterday the rationale for allowing the commissioner this discretion. As members are aware, there are a few clubs that are at an advanced stage of building new facilities, and the committee wanted to provide a mechanism for these clubs to access licences, within a strict set of criteria. The legislation requires the commissioner to be satisfied that the club has already made significant investment in facilities and has a demonstrable commitment to providing services to the community. The club must also be able to demonstrate that it will make an important contribution to the community. The committee was also concerned to ensure that the commissioner is satisfied that an application is not from an existing club that is seeking to access additional machines by establishing a new associated club. Once again, other matters may be considered. I believe that the procedures that have been used for attracting members are another relevant factor.
The restrictions on gaming machines that this legislation is establishing will be in force for 12 months. It is my hope, Mr Speaker, that during this time the committee will be able to recommend changes to the administration of gaming machine licensing in the ACT to ensure that a much more rigorous set of criteria is in place. As Mr Kaine said yesterday, without the legislation before us today, the commissioner has no discretion at all to refuse applications for new licences or variations to increase the number of licences if the application satisfies existing criteria.
To conclude, Mr Speaker, I believe that this cap is necessary and important, and I think the approach we have taken is sensible and fair. Let me say, for the interest of members, that the ACT is not alone in setting a numerical cap. Victoria has set a cap of 27,500 machines that will remain in place until the year 2000. South Australia also has a moratorium on the expansion of machines into retail facilities. The flurry of activity that occurred after the last debate in this place about a poker machine cap just reinforced my conviction that a cap is indeed necessary. It is not good enough to wait until the select committee has reported. We must close the floodgates at some point while we look at the social and economic impacts of gambling in the ACT.
As I have said before, the ACT has a very high per capita expenditure on poker machines, if not the highest in Australia, and the number of machines has expanded very rapidly in recent years. While many people think of Victoria as "the capital of gambling", members may be interested to hear that in Victoria there is one machine to 130 adults. With a cap of 5,200 in place, this would compare with a ratio in the ACT of about one machine to 40 adults. If another 300 machines are allowed by the commissioner, this will translate