Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2517 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
they will be able to stop inappropriate gambling. I don't believe it. I think it's quite spurious to ever suggest it. They obviously cannot do that. What they may be able to do is occasionally touch on someone who has an extreme problem.
MRS BURKE(6.00): I was not actually going to talk on this but, having had a small business myself for some 14 years, I can identify with a few of the things that have been said. Mr Stefaniak, in closing, will give some statistics and numbers-that is not my forte, although I know that these taverns and small clubs want a small number of machines-two. They want to be able to upgrade. Some of them are struggling businesses. How can they possibly compete in a marketplace such as Canberra? I will refer back to that in a moment.
An argument has been put that, if they are struggling, they should not be in business and that just having poker machines won't be the making of these businesses. That could be true to a certain extent, but businesses have to change. Environments change, so businesses have to be innovative and find different ways to support activities. This is not about supporting gambling per se in a big way, and I will move on to that, too.
Mr Stefaniak has put forward a very fair request. I also agree with Ms Dundas's comments that we perhaps need to take a broader look at the whole allocations situation. That is a very sensible comment to make. It will create a more level playing field. I, as a businessperson, can understand the cry from the smaller tavern owners. It is very difficult when a virtual monopoly of bigger businesses continually swallows up everything you are trying to do. What we are proposing here allows small operators the option to mix and match.
I find it quite amusing: we carp on about discrimination in this place and people's rights. Is this not a form of discrimination, if we looked purely and simply at what is being proposed here? I also wonder why the government is so keen to see the control of the big club revenue stay just there, with the big clubs. Mr Stefaniak will probably articulate this much better than I can but, from a simplistic point of view, these taverns would have to contribute gaming tax more than the bigger premises. Mr Stefaniak may help me on that one.
Many small taverns are huge supporters of their local communities. All the industry wants to do is keep pace with the times and upgrade. I immediately think of a couple of taverns and tavern owners that I know. It is a place of community; it is not a place that condones alcoholism or any of those things. There are some very responsible club owners, tavern owners and small club and hotel owners in this town. They would not be in business if they were not. Those that are not good will not keep pace with the market and will fade away anyway. That is business.
We are talking about a situation where, with the size of some of these machines, many clubs are not physically going to be able to get more than the actual number required at this stage. That may or not be a point. I do not know.
Gambling certainly is a problem in our community. We are casting some grave things upon our tavern owners when we say that gambling is a big problem and they should not have these machines, and that is that. Are we saying that they are irresponsible?