Page 4951 - Week 13 - Thursday, 2 November 2017
Of course, these benefits cannot be separated from the casino component of the proposal, and I will speak to the harm minimisation issues shortly. However, I note that there are some benefits to having gambling occurring in a casino rather than in community venues. As a designated gambling venue, patrons are very clear about what service is being offered. In particular, the access for children, particularly to the lights and sounds of poker machines, is much more restricted and for me this is an appealing aspect of having poker machines in a casino environment rather than in a community club in the suburbs, billed as a family-friendly venue.
While these factors are all relevant, the main consideration for the Greens is how we can reduce the impact of gambling harm in our community. The proposal before the Assembly is an opportunity to introduce a new model of best practice harm minimisation to reduce or prevent the negative social, emotional and financial impacts of people at risk of problem gambling behaviour.
Since this proposal was put forward, the Greens have been very clear that any legislation to introduce poker machines into the casino needs to have strong harm minimisation measures to ensure that gambling harm in the community will not increase as a result of this change. We support the Productivity Commission’s findings that a bet limit of $2 or less is needed to make some useful inroads into reducing harms, and the commission’s recommendation that a limit of $1 per spin is best practice. We have repeatedly said that we will not support the introduction of poker machines in the casino with a $10 or a $5 bet limit, and we want to see a bet limit proposed that aligns with the available evidence.
Of course, the introduction of bet limits and mandatory precommitment into the casino is only one important part of a broader suite of harm minimisation measures that the Greens have campaigned for. Our community has been having a conversation over the past year about understanding the human impacts of gambling harm, and several members of our community, as I said yesterday, have shared their personal experiences of harm from poker machine addiction. As a result of these conversations most Canberrans are no longer willing to dismiss this as a minor issue that should be left up to each individual to deal with. Instead we accept that this is an issue we can do something about by improving the protections that exist on poker machines and in gambling venues.
I quoted some figures in my speech on Mr Parton’s motion yesterday, and I will repeat them briefly again today, because it is important to understand the scale of impact that this issue has. The Australian gambling statistics report reveals that people in the ACT spent over $167 million on the pokies in 2014-15. Almost 20 per cent of ACT adults played the pokies at least once in that period, with losses totalling $37.48 million.
The key point to note on this issue is that while anecdotally we are told that the number of people playing the pokies is decreasing, we continue to see a significant percentage of those losses coming from people who can least afford it. Of the over $37 million in losses in the ACT, 63 per cent came from people with at least some problem gambling symptoms. Twenty-eight per cent of losses came from people at