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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2542 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Compare that with a provision that you might find in a hypothetical piece of legislation creating a tobacco commission to regulate the distribution and sale of tobacco in the ACT. Clearly, you would not say that the role of a tobacco commission would be to promote the consumption or sale of tobacco because tobacco is seen as a bad thing, notwithstanding the fact that there are jobs associated with the sale and distribution of tobacco. However, I do not think that we should see gaming and racing in the same mould. If people are able to go to racecourses or TABs or to clubs and play poker machines or engage in other sorts of gaming activities at moderate levels, well within their incomes, I think it is true to say that, despite different tastes that we might have in that kind of activity, it is a perfectly legitimate exercise to be engaged in. If it is legitimate, if it meets a legitimate recreational expectation of people in the ACT, then it is appropriate for it to be developed further.

There will be occasions when the commission will have to make decisions which could be seen either as developing or as hindering the growth of the industry. One example might be the incipient project to have Internet gambling in the ACT. We hope that one day a significant industry will be based around Internet gambling run by organisations registered or based in the ACT as gambling or gaming service providers. In moving to develop that kind of industry there are benefits for the ACT community, for the ACT taxpayer, and I think that it is appropriate for us to be promoting those sorts of things. The Government has made a decision to promote those sorts of things. It is an export earner for the ACT because we would expect at the end of the day that most of the clients of such Internet gaming services would actually live outside the ACT; in fact, quite often outside Australia altogether.

We will be, as a government, unashamedly promoting that kind of thing. It is true to say that the Gambling and Racing Commission would not be in the same position of promoting it as the Government, but it is also not out of the question for the commission to be in the position of giving appropriate support to the development of that industry. I am not sure that what Ms Tucker wants to do with the Bill, that is, remove any reference to development in that sense, is appropriate. She talks about having three functions - administering the gaming laws, controlling, supervising and regulating gaming and performing functions and exercising powers given to the commission by this or any other Act. That is a very mechanistic approach to it: "You will do what the law says you will do in respect of it".

I think that a commission like this one has to be aware of the antecedents to it as regulators of gambling activity. For example, bodies such as the old Racecourse Development Fund, I think it was called, had a brief to develop racecourse racing in the ACT. The new commission inherits that role. I think it is important for the commission to see itself as promoting and appropriately managing the development of that kind of activity, but not in a way detrimental to the community, if possible. Ms Tucker has other amendments for later today which will limit the way in which the industry is regulated and the commission acts to regulate the industry so as to take into account things like consumer protection, the possibility of criminal or unethical activity, and the risks and costs to the community of gambling.

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