Page 589 - Week 02 - Thursday, 14 February 2013

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those with a gambling addiction play poker machines. We also know that, on average, for each person who is a problem gambler, seven other people they know are seriously affected by their addiction.

In response to an article on the Drum by Charles Livingstone, the deputy head of the Department of Health Social Science at Monash University, someone named Suzanne commented very aptly:

The pokies are unique, specific, money-extracting machines, time-consuming, socially-isolating devices that prey upon vulnerable people extremely efficiently.

This bill is designed to prevent existing problems from getting even worse and preventing the machines from becoming even more isolating by prohibiting the use of headphones designed to further isolate gamblers and ensure that they cannot be distracted from the machines.

Recently, following a 12-month interim ban, the Victorian gambling minister issued new regulations prohibiting the use of headphones, or what are commonly known as audio isolation devices, on poker machines. The bill I present today is modelled on those regulations in response to the concerns from experts.

Following the announcement of the Victorian ban, the InterChurch Gambling Taskforce chairman, Dr Mark Zirnsak, said that the ban should be replicated Australia wide. This bill will implement the ban in the ACT and prevent the Gambling and Racing Commissioner from approving a machine that has an audio device for headphones unless the device is specifically for those with a hearing impairment.

Further, the bill provides a regulation-making power so that should there be other devices which would never be able to be approved by the commissioner, they can be prescribed by regulation to prevent their approval.

At the time the Victorian ban was implemented, the minister, Michael O’Brien, said in an ABC radio interview:

… the sounds of silence apart from a number of people sitting at their gaming machines literally plugged into them is just something that we just find was fairly abhorrent and something that we couldn’t support as being a responsible gambling practice.

I certainly agree with that statement. I do not think anyone would want to see any Canberrans go to a club and plug themselves into a machine, completely isolated from everything else around them, and gamble their income away.

The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has listed headphones on the gaming machine prohibited features register, preventing the use of headphones in New South Wales. At the time, those bans were opposed by the poker machine lobby, which argued that such a ban was discriminatory.

However, when ClubsACT were contacted in the development of this bill, to their credit they indicated their support for the ban.

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