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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (25 March) . . Page.. 812 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (10.41): Mr Speaker, I rise to commend this report to the Assembly. For some time I have been concerned about the culture associated with poker machine gambling in the ACT. I, like most fellow members, have observed poker machine players from time to time and I have to admit that there have been many instances when I have been quite shocked at the amount of money that I have seen ordinary people plough into a poker machine in the space of a few drinks at their local club. I have seen these people throw away amounts of money that I simply could not justify. I have seen average people on average incomes lose amounts of money in one sitting which I certainly know would hurt my own family finances. I always thought that the poker machine culture had to be hurting ordinary families, and this inquiry has certainly confirmed those concerns.

The proliferation of poker machines has to be checked. There are social impacts associated with the culture which we have to try to control. We cannot allow the community to be saturated with poker machines any further until we can compile more research into the impact of gambling in the ACT.

We are all aware of the push to have poker machines expanded into hotels in the ACT. In New South Wales this is already in place, and there have been disturbing results. New South Wales Gaming and Racing Department figures released earlier this month showed that Sydney's poorest suburbs are the biggest profit centres for hotel poker machines. The households with the lowest incomes in the Canterbury-Bankstown and Fairfield-Liverpool areas were propping up the richest pubs. This is an indication that we could be exposing a new market to poker machines by expanding them into pubs. Before making this decision we need to conduct much more research and obtain more information.

Overall, Mr Speaker, the recommendations tabled by the Select Committee on Gambling are sensible measures to assess which direction we should take with poker machines and gambling in general in the ACT. We do not want to perpetuate adverse social impacts and, as an Assembly, we have to put in place the regulatory measures that will protect the susceptible. We need strong codes and rehabilitation mechanisms. We also have to assess present arrangements with poker machines in clubs, such as the amount of money the club industry does put back into the community, and reduce the withdrawal limits at EFTPOS machines from, say, $1,000 to $200 per day.

In closing, Mr Speaker, I would also like to record my personal gratitude to the secretariat staff, Bill Symington, Fiona Clapin and Kim Blackburn, but particularly Fiona, who sacrificed last weekend to ensure that this report would be finalised. Her efforts in particular are certainly appreciated. Mr Speaker, the final report of the gambling committee is an important building block which I encourage the Assembly to embrace and follow through to ensure that the social problems associated with gambling do not escalate in the ACT.


(10.46): Mr Speaker, I am also pleased to be able to support this report. As members are well aware, I have been raising concerns about the effect of increased gambling in the ACT since the last Assembly. This Government, like other governments in Australia, has been very ready to accept the revenue benefits of gambling but has

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