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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2510 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

registered clubs in the ACT. We have previously heard the Chief Minister stand up in this Assembly and declare that there will be no pokies in pubs, as if this was a great policy initiative preventing problem gambling.

Actually, there is very little evidence to show that the ownership of the machines has much impact on problem gambling. In fact, it appears to be a very odd idea that a problem gambler will be more tempted by a poker machine if it is owned by a private operator. Only one argument specifically relates poker machine ownership to problem gambling, being that a not-for-profit entity is less likely to encourage gambling, because their profit-taking motive is lesser.

However, there is no evidence to back up this theory. In fact, we see frequent electronic advertising by registered clubs, including television ads that depict gamblers at poker machines, with huge wads of cash, and big grins on their face. It does appear that there are many people in the ACT who are willing to heavily promote gambling in the ACT.

The second major argument for restricting poker machines to non-profit, registered clubs is that the resulting revenue goes back to the community. Firstly, I believe that this actually has nothing to do with problem gambling. Secondly, I think it is wrong to try to defend something that does a social harm by arguing that a related social good is compensation. This social mathematics has no logical basis, but we can ask whether this theoretical social good is being delivered by clubs and whether this could be as easily provided by the private sector.

Most benefits provided by the clubs industry are already provided by the private sector. Clubs originally filled gaps in the market where private incentives were too small, particularly by bringing together interest groups, be they sporting or ethnic, with the proliferation of poker machines. This has substantially changed. Whoever has the poker machines, the associated employment and economic activity will be similar. That clubs give part of their revenue back through cheaper alcohol is of dubious social benefit, especially considering concerns about the increase in binge drinking and alcohol consumption, especially among young people.

Private operators are also able to donate to sporting teams and community organisations. In fact, the Gambling and Racing Commission has criticised the low levels of community contributions by clubs, particularly to social welfare organisations. The commission has even recommended that the level of social welfare contributions be legislated. The community benefits of poker machines are clearly better enforced by regulation than by trusting whoever owns them to fund community organisations that provide the greatest benefit to the community.

But the idea that poker machines should be only restricted to not-for-profit organisations begs the question: why only poker machines? What about casinos, lotteries, and sport betting? Why is it okay for some forms of gambling to be run by private operators but not others? What is so special about poker machines?

If the government is serious about returning the profits of gambling to the community, I expect them to present legislation banning private operators from operating any form

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