Monday, 26 May 2008

Hansard 2008-05-08 Final Report - Gaming Licensing

In May of 2008 the Select Committee on Gaming Licensing established in 2007 tabled its final report. The report recommended several measures at Mr Kavanagh’s initiative including the introduction of mandatory warnings at the entrances of pokie venues and on the machines themselves. The Committee’s report did not go far enough however and therefore Mr Kavanagh added his own report suggesting further measures including a requirement that venues be required to discourage patrons from simultaneously drinking alcohol and playing pokies.

Title: Final report
Date: 8 May 2008
Page: 1560

Page 1560

Final report

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- The Select Committee on Gaming Licensing was established largely because of concerns held by the opposition and speculation in the media about the lotteries licensing process. In general terms it seems to me that the evidence before the committee of any irregularities in the licensing process was very weak and inconsistent and was indeed contradicted by other evidence.

In Australian culture we naturally tend to sympathise with the underdog.

It is a part of who we are. That is not a bad characteristic to have. However, I think in defending the low we should also bear in mind that we have responsibilities of fairness and justice to the high. I have to agree with the members of the government who consider that finding 3.24 and paragraph 191, although technically correct, do not fulfil our obligation to Mr Bracks or other people to be fair and just.

However, our commitment to the truth means that we should emphasise and underscore the government's hostility to the committee and its lack of cooperation throughout the 15 months of the committee's investigations. From the beginning the government, it seemed to me needlessly and wantonly, interfered to prevent the committee uncovering evidence. Indeed in the process it ignored independent legal evidence obtained on behalf of this house.

Victorians should be concerned about this, because if this attitude towards investigations by the government is to continue, it will mean that the role of this house in reviewing and scrutinising the government will be diminished. That should be a matter of concern for all Victorians.

In addition to the investigation of the licensing processes, the committee considered, among other things, problem gambling and methods of minimising the harm done by problem gambling. It seemed to me that that was an extremely important aspect of the committee's work. In the course of that investigation we heard testimony from people who have had problems with gambling. The evidence they gave us was quite harrowing. It pointed to personal despair of a profound nature.

In addition to hearing from the sufferers of the problem, we also heard from experts who spoke about their efforts to treat and help people with this problem. We found that particular problems included financial, health, social and personal aspects. We heard, for example, of a family whose members did their grocery shopping for the week, after which they went off to play the pokies. They came back later to the supermarket saying, 'We have lost all our money at the pokies. We want a refund. We want to cash our groceries in'.

We also heard from one problem gambling help organisation that its staff hear about six times a year of someone they have dealt with killing themselves. These people commit suicide because of problems arising from the use of EGMs (electronic gaming machines). That organisation covers a small part of Victoria, and indeed probably only deals with a small part of the problem within that particular region. The problem is huge and profound. I think it justifies the conclusion that pokies really are a scourge in our society.

The committee considered measures for dealing with problem gambling and to address the harm done by it. It seems to me that while there are worthwhile measures in the report, they do not go far enough. The state profits from this dangerous activity, and it seems that we are obliged to do everything we reasonably can to warn people so that Victorians who use EGMs do so after being warned soberly and on the understanding that they are very unlikely to win money in the long term.

The committee considered the introduction in the near future in Victoria of precommitment technology, as announced by the government. The government has not announced whether that will be optional or mandatory, and it seemed to me -- though not to a majority of the committee -- that the government should work towards making the technology mandatory. We also heard from a leading problem gambling expert from New Zealand whose evidence was very powerful. It showed us that Victoria has a lot to learn from New Zealand.

I would like to thank the chairman of the committee, Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips, who did a really great job for the whole 15 months. He was fair, he kept the process moving and did a pretty good job of preventing some of the disputes degenerating to an unseemly level. Thanks also to Mr Richard Willis and Mr Anthony Walsh, both of whom at all times were helpful, courteous, cheerful and professional in everything they did for us.

Motion agreed to.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677


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