Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1961 ..
MS DUNDAS: This is a quite simple amendment in that it changes the number of the existing cap from 5,200 to 5,020. It is revised because, as I said during the in-principle stage, when this was originally to be debated last month, the number of machines actually in the community was 5,068.
I believe that this amendment ensures that no further poker machines will be released into our community until the completion of the reform process. I believe it is essential that we take a precautionary approach to reform of the Gaming Machine Act and do not release any further machines until we have made an informed decision about how many poker machines should actually be in circulation. There are currently 180 machines remaining to be allocated within the existing cap, meaning that 5,020 licences have already been granted.
I think we need to put a stop to the continuation of the granting of licences, as we have all agreed that the system does need reform. Instead of doing it in a piecemeal way, which is the approach that we have seen so far-and we've had introduced the Gaming Machine (Women's Sports) Amendment Bill that we debated last year-if we agree that there need to be comprehensive reforms, then let's do the comprehensive reforms but not let the current situation continue.
We do have a duty of care to ensure that we do not cause unnecessary harm by releasing more licences into the community until we have provided the appropriate safeguards. We all agree that the Gaming Machine Act needs to be reformed, but while the reform process is occurring we need to ensure that the problems are not exacerbated.
MR QUINLAN(Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (5.59): Can I inform the house that, as of the board meeting of today, the number of allocated machines in the ACT is 5,065.
I think Ms Tucker, in her speech earlier, said that caps are not, in themselves, effective; and I would expect that that would be the case. To actually say we will cure this problem by giving no new machines out might marginally reduce a problem of problem gambling inasmuch as someone in north Gungahlin might be precluded from access. But as Ms Tucker also said, problem gamblers tend to be attracted to the bigger clubs anyway.
I think that it is necessary, just for once in this debate, for me to say that poker machines are not all bad; they're not all good. It is the same as driving motor cars, drinking booze and whatever. We need to take a balanced approach. I hope that we're not getting into a competition as to who can be more righteous about poker machines than the other.
While I'm on my feet, I'll just take the liberty to say that I think the amendment is illogical; it's just going to create the haves and have-nots in terms of poker machines; and it just doesn't fit in with logic. You're addressing one problem; it's not a way of solving that problem.
There was nothing insidious in setting the cap for two years. I don't mind if it is cut back to one year.