Page 2108 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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Given that people on low income tend to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on poker and gaming machines, we can hope that some low-income households are better off as a result of this strategy. We can also trust that some people are less likely to experience problem gambling. By the way, it was the Productivity Commission that identified that it was people on a lower income spending higher proportions of their income on gaming machines.

Today I just mention a new report that indicates that older women are proving to have particular issues with problem gambling. The evidence that they are having problems is when they start going on their own to clubs and working the machines. Often what will start off as a social outing, a way of being with people, becomes something a lot more secretive and done in isolation. Of course the poker machines are just perfect for that sort of one-on-one gambling, not that one imagines there would be a lot of personal satisfaction in that activity.

In his speech the minister also mentioned that clubs are likely to be adversely affected by the introduction of more stringent smoking restrictions at the end of next year, at least in the short term. It may be that gaming revenue will drop again when smoking restrictions are introduced, but I urge the government and clubs to recognise that the social and health benefits of this far outweigh any negative impact. I also refer to an article I read recently that in Ireland, where smoking has been banned absolutely inside pubs and all other public facilities, people stopped going to these places but after a very short time they are back almost to the original level of attendance. So I really think that there is a big beat-up about the impact of smoking.

We do not want to lose our clubs. They are an important part of Canberra’s social fabric. However, the viability of clubs should not be set up against strategies to reduce spending on gambling and prevent problem gambling or public health initiatives. When we were visited a while back by representatives of Clubs ACT, they acknowledged that the changing demographics of Canberra are at least as much to blame for a drop in use of clubs as anything else and that, as generations move through, the younger generation are not flocking to the clubs in the same way perhaps as their parents did. That is an issue that is for the clubs to solve, not for us. However, I would like to see the government commission an independent study into the viability of clubs and develop strategies to assist them to achieve sustainable operations that are less dependent on gambling revenue.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (4.27), in reply: I thank the house for its support. I will just pick up on a couple of points that were mentioned.

In relation to the note acceptors and the recent expression of concern by clubs, if my intelligence is in any way correct, that was stirred by one club and by an individual within a club who happened to be connected to the newspaper and it left poor old Clubs ACT in the cleft stick of either defending their members or not defending their members in the public forum. It probably is a story that, in fact, collectively the clubs would not have wished to go through.

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