COALITION SENATORS’ DISSENTING REPORT
Coalition Senators are deeply concerned about the lack of time the
Government has permitted for proper consultation and review of this
Above all else, Coalition Senators add their voice to the calls of many
others that legislation of such alleged significance to addressing problem
gambling in our community deserves much greater scrutiny and community
consultation. Coalition Senators believe a more thorough inquiry should be
undertaken into the legislation.
This is significant legislation that, if implemented, will require
cooperation from State and Territory Governments through the COAG process as
well as the active participation of the gaming industry, the hospitality sector
and other stakeholders.
Despite this, the Government has allowed insufficient time to examine
the provisions of this legislation and has roundly ignored warnings from
experienced bodies about potential pitfalls in the bill.
Likewise, those who expressed a concern about other potential negative
consequences of this legislation, particularly the impact on employment in the
hospitality sector, have not had their voices adequately heard.
The legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives on
1 November, with the subsequent Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform
given a mere week to take submissions and a further one week for hearings.
Given the scope of this legislation and the dimensions of the challenge it
seeks to address, this was far from adequate.
Similarly with the Senate process, the evidence clearly identifies that
there has been very poor consultation on the proposed legislation by Government
with all parties that have a responsibility in ensuring the ultimate success of
national gaming reform legislation.
Coalition Senators support the concept of voluntary pre-commitment as
one of a variety of tools for addressing the complex issue of problem gambling
in Australia. However, we disagree with the approach as proposed by this
Government and contained in its ill-conceived legislative proposals.
Coalition Senators do not believe the legislation should be supported in
its current form.
Coalition Senators believe the Government’s national gaming reform
legislation is far from perfect and can be characterised by its lack of
appreciation for the concerns of State and Territory Governments; its decision
to ignore important technical advice and suggested improvements from key
industry participants; and a failure to provide much needed clarity and
flexibility in the proposed legislative measures.
The Productivity Commission itself stated that the issue of addressing
problem gambling is a complex task for public policy and that coverage and
design of regulation require particular care to ensure that the benefits exceed
the costs, and that account is taken of what is often imperfect evidence.
At its core, the Government’s national gaming reform legislation has
ignored the legitimate comments and suggested improvements to the legislation
by those who will ultimately be judged as to the effectiveness of the proposed reforms.
Closer examination of the evidence suggests a number of initiatives
should be supported that will significantly improve the effectiveness of the
Coalition Senators have identified six areas of concern with the
Governments legislation, being the:
- Extension of Commonwealth influence over State and Territory
- lack of time given to industry to effectively prepare for
implementation of the new measures;
- cost of implementation;
- negative impact on industry and employment especially on smaller
venues, those in regional and rural areas and those premises already
experiencing financial hardship;
- the risk of widespread non-compliance; and
- matters associated with the use of ATMs.
Extension of Commonwealth influence
At the outset, Coalition Senators are concerned the legislation is a
further over-reach of Commonwealth authority into a State responsibility.
As significant as the issue of problem gaming appears to be for many in
the community, the seriousness of the issue does not necessarily require the
accumulation of authority and responsibility in this area by the Commonwealth.
This point is best demonstrated by the evidence of respected Professor
of Constitutional Law at The University of Sydney, Dr Anne Twomey, who stated:
... gambling is fundamentally a State matter that should be
dealt with by State laws ... it would be more consistent with the federal system
and with the principle of subsidiarity for such laws to be applied at the State
The success of allowing and encouraging State based legislative
responses to reducing the occurrence of problem gambling should be given
This point is best demonstrated by the success of Western Australia in
developing a unique and successful gaming regime where the low prevalence of
problem gambling has been attributed to permitting destination gaming and not
having electronic gaming machines available in the wider community.
Coalition Senators are disappointed the COAG process was not fully
utilised to ensure a more fulsome consultation process with State and Territory
Governments to allow for earlier technical input into some of the design and
implementation features of the proposed gaming reform legislation.
Timeframe for implementation and costs of implementation
The bill seeks to impose uniform timelines and conditions on all States
and Territories. The evidence suggests the consequence of this arbitrary
approach will be extensive compliance costs and administrative burdens.
The imposition of uniform timelines and conditions runs counter to the
expert evidence of the Productivity Commission. It has stated:
Realistically, most State and Territory governments could not
quickly implement a genuinely binding pre-commitment system. Full-scale
implementation and advanced interfaces with the gambler would also require all
machines to have card readers (or other player identification devices) and
software upgrades – a costly measure if required to be done quickly.
Instead, the Productivity Commission proposed a staged approach
involving partial pre-commitment and a trial of full pre-commitment.
Coalition Senators believe the imposition of a uniform timeline for
implementation is a reckless rejection of the advice of the Productivity
Commission and could undermine the overall success of the implementation of a
voluntary pre-commitment regime.
Furthermore, technical evidence received by suppliers of gaming
technology such as the Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) suggested the
timelines for implementation could not be observed, not least because the term
“pre-commitment” has not been clearly defined.
The GTA stated:
...while everyone is talking about pre-commitment, no one in
the Government can explain what that means in practice for the design of the
gaming machine and its software.
It is important to note that GTA is the sole body of industry technical
expertise in Australia. On the issue of implementation its evidence is
significant: 'GTA states categorically that the implementation timelines in the
bill cannot met.'
This evidence was reinforced by other industry participants. Aristocrat,
a global company with more than sixty years' experience also provided evidence
regarding the bill’s implementation timeframes and their associated costs.
Any solution needs to be affordable and practical within the
technological complexities and lead times of the industry. It must also have
the support of both the players and operators if it is to succeed.
Upgrading these to ensure compliance with any new regulatory
requirement would involve a huge investment and redirection of resources
towards the development of the necessary mathematics models, artwork and
feature sets. Aristocrat believes the implementation timeframes being discussed
... are wholly unrealistic.
To assist progress to full implementation as soon as possible, Coalition
Senators suggest the bill include provision to grant recognition to all
existing pre-commitment technology that meets the requirements proposed by the
It is noted the bill currently does not recognise the significant
investment already made by some premises to provide for pre-commitment systems.
These systems should be recognised as soon as possible to extend some
regulatory certainty to the gaming industry.
Coalition Senators recommend that to ensure full successful
implementation, timelines for implementation are incorporated in the
regulations and not in the legislation thus reflecting the pre-existing
technical variations between jurisdictions.
Coalition Senators recommend that existing pre-commitment systems that
already meet minimum requirements proposed in the bill be automatically
recognised as compliant to assist in delivering regulatory certainty to some
Disproportionate negative impact on smaller venues, those in regional and
rural areas and premises suffering economic stress
The bill has ignored the fact that many gaming premises do not have the
capacity to implement and comply with the proposed regime. This is particularly
the case for smaller venues, those in regional and rural areas and financially
It is nonsense to require this category of gambling premises to uphold
the same implementation timeframe and costs of city casinos, not least because
of the obvious differential in the average annual revenue collected per
Coalition Senators would like Government to more genuinely revisit the
suggestion provided in the evidence by Clubs Australia that a venue’s average
revenue per machine should be used when assessing issues around timeliness and
cost of implementation of the new regime.
The positive effect of this approach has already been identified by the
Productivity Commission. It stated:
...the Commission proposes an even slower pace of change for
small venues (mostly small regional clubs and pubs). Temporary exemptions for
some measures are appropriate as their machines are often played at lower
intensity and the lifecycle of their machines is longer than larger ‘cashed up’
venues. Given these characteristics, the benefits from early reform in these
small venues are lower, and the costs of achieving it are higher, justifying
their (temporary) special treatment.
The merit of revisiting this issue is most obvious when reviewing the
revenue derived from gambling by varying forms of premises. Hotels derived 28
per cent of their revenue from gambling, clubs 61 per cent and casinos 78 per
Coalition Senators recommend that Government undertake more targeted
consultation to address the concerns of some gambling premises regarding the
implementation of the bill’s measures. This consultation should specifically
address the needs of smaller venues and those in regional and rural areas that
may be more financially marginal operations, and make proposals to ameliorate
the time and cost pressures of implementing measures proposed by the bill.
Risk of non-compliance
The evidence also suggests that speed at which the bill’s measures are
to be introduced could inadvertently encourage widespread non-compliance with
the new regime and undermine its overall effectiveness.
A wide cross section of evidence, from the Productivity Commission to
the Australian Hotels Association to the manufacturers and suppliers of gaming
technology, have pointed to the risk that a hasty, ill-conceived approach to
implementation timeframes may have the unintended consequence of widespread
Clubs Australia noted the problem in its submission:
...the Government’s proposed three year implementation
timeframe for venues with more than 20 poker machines fails to provide
sufficient time for clubs to absorb compliance costs and is likely to result in
widespread non-compliance across the industry. Clubs Australia believes that
feasible implementation timeframes must accommodate those states and
territories that face the most burdensome compliance requirements. The
Productivity Commission recommended that venues be given a minimum of six years
to amortise the capital investment associated with implementing state linked
Coalition Senators encourage the Government to consider the seriousness
to which its efforts to combat problem gambling are being undermined by its own
belligerence on the timeframe for implementation.
Matters concerning the use of ATMs
Two important issues have been raised in the evidence concerning the use
The first is the proposed $250 per day ATM withdrawal limit and the
second involves the use of self-exclusion ATMs.
It is important to note that evidence linking access to ATMs with
problem gambling is not conclusive. Evidence from the ATM Industry Reference
Group highlights an important historical fact:
In the past decade, the prevalence of problem gambling has
decreased, yet the number of ATMs in gaming venues has dramatically increased
over this period.
Coalition Senators support industry calls for an extension of the lead
time of not less than 12 months for the commencement date of the proposed daily
ATM withdrawal limit. Coalition Senators recognise that this has been the
consistent and long held view of the ATM Industry Reference Group since the
national debate on gambling reform began in 2007.
It is accepted that implementation of the proposed change across all
State and Territories in gaming venues across geographically diverse locations
is subject to differing legislative and regulatory models. Furthermore, there
will be a requirement to make technological arrangements that differentiate
between ATMs across networks and sites.
Coalition Senators believe the evidence supports raising the proposed
daily withdrawal limit from an ATM from $250 to $400. Raising the proposed
daily withdrawal limit to $400 would appear a fair mitigation against the
adverse effect on food and beverage sales of hotel and clubs that may operate
Further consultation with all parties would also identify opportunities
for enhanced use of self-exclusion ATMs by problem gamblers. Greater attention
should be given to this initiative while ensuring it does not knowingly
interfere or inconvenience other patrons.
Coalition Senators believe greater attention should be paid to the
evidence of the ATM Industry Reference Group when considering approaches to
limiting access to ATMs as a means of addressing problem gambling. In
particular the proposal to raise the daily ATM withdrawal limit from $250 to
$400, the use of self-exclusion as an alternate to the daily withdrawal limit
and excluding ATMs in regional and remote locations from the daily limit
Coalition Senators recommend the daily withdrawal limit for ATMs be
raised from $250 to $400 and that attention be given to use of self-exclusion
mechanisms on ATMs for problem gamblers.
The package of bills is not supported by Coalition Senators.
In summary, Coalition Senator believe the bills need improvements to
ensure the success of the problem gambling reform measures are not
inadvertently undermined by unnecessarily speedy and prescriptive legislative
These improvements could be more easily identified and endorsed by all
parties if there had been a more appropriate and comprehensive consultation
Coalition Senators concur with the approach of the Productivity
Commission which suggests problem gambling measures should seek to increase
competition across some segments, expand and improve consumer choice and reduce
the harms of problem gambling while seeking to maintain its entertainment
Coalition Senators recommend that the bills not be passed in their
Senator Dean Smith
Senator Bridget McKenzie
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