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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1202 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The focus must be shifted from the cap on the number of machines to counteracting the technological changes in the industry. Suggestions could include changes to venues, such as removing ATM machines from gaming venues, or the installation of large wall clocks to remind people that time is passing. Another solution that I am very interested in, for health as well as social reasons, is banning smoking in gambling venues, so that smokers have to stop and leave their poker machines to have a cigarette. We know that a number of people who have gaming addictions also have cigarette addictions.

Other suggestions are changing the gambling machines so that, when you have a big win, you are not offered a double or nothing bet, or that the machine should spit out the money, so that you have to put it back in if you want to continue gambling. Even the removal of note acceptors could help, because the physical task of taking time to put coins into the machine can cut down the time that gamblers have to lose money.

Gambling is depicted in TV advertising, as part of a normalising process that encourages people not to see gambling as harmful, but to treat it as a minor aberration, a small problem. In fact, there is even one ad that says, "Everyone's a winner," although it is quite clear that this is not the case. There are over 5,000 Canberrans for whom gambling is a real problem.

This cap on machines is only one small step and, as I said, it can be a misleading solution. I do not want the Assembly to be debating a similar bill, an extension of time for the cap, for three years in a row. I hope that this government will move forward with some of the recommendations from earlier reports, and do so in a timely fashion.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (11.35), in reply: I thank members for their support for this bill. It allows merely for an extension of the previous cap, as has been stated. Mr Humphries did mention the inquiry and the length of time it is taking. It certainly is taking a long time, but I have had briefings on it and, although it is quite a complex and wide-reaching inquiry, I do expect the results to be before the Assembly before the end of this calendar year.

I want to pick up one point, and I think Ms Dundas alluded to this matter quite accurately: this is essentially a measure in prohibition, and prohibition is not, to my mind, a real answer to problem gambling, problem drinking or problem anything. I have to say that there is now, and will be in the future, some pressure against this particular cap. That pressure will rise because there is a developing area in Gungahlin, with the population increasing out there at a rapid rate, and those people will want the same facilities that other areas of Canberra enjoy. I do not think we want to create a situation where there is virtually geographic prohibition, or there are dry zones across Canberra, merely because we have this quite arbitrary process.

Ms Tucker was correct when she stated that we have not reached this particular cap, but it may be that we will in a year or so.

Ms Tucker: Why do you want to reach it? We do not want to reach it. I did not say that.

MR QUINLAN: Didn't you?

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