Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:33:09) — My question is for the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, who is represented in this house by Mr Dalidakis. Poker machine losses exceed $2.6 billion in Victoria each year, exacting a terrible toll on families and communities. Four hundred gambling-related suicides occur nationally every year. In our crossbench briefing on Monday we were advised that the reason underpinning a change to 20-year gaming machine licences being made now, despite existing licences not expiring until 2022, was that the pokie clubs need more borrowing certainty from banks to do renovations. Can the minister please explain why her office provided us with this advice and reassure me that extensive gambling-related harms to our society, including suicide, are being prioritised above the needs for pokie clubs to renovate their premises?
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:34:33) — Thank you, Minister. I look forward to that. In Tasmania a $200 daily EFTPOS withdrawal limit exists, which is regarded as this country’s best practice. Could the minister articulate why in Victoria a $500 limit is being proposed in preference to a $200 limit, bearing in mind the harms of these clubs?
RESPONSE TO SUBSTANTIVE QUESTION:
The Andrews Government has an unquestionable commitment to the prevention of suicide, evident by our nation’s first Suicide Prevention Framework released last year. This $27 million investment, together with our 10 Year Mental Health Plan, will support our endeavour to halve the suicide rate by 2025.
The allocation of gaming machine entitlements well in advance of their expiration in 2022 will not have an impact on our Government’s commitment to reducing suicide. In addition, there is no reason to suspect that suicide rates will be impacted by the timing of entitlement allocation.
The reason for an early allocation of entitlements is to provide gaming businesses with the certainty required to make decisions about long-term investments. As 2022 draws nearer, investment in venues will continue to slow and venue operators will face difficulty borrowing to finance refurbishments or renovations. An early allocation will alleviate the commercial challenges for gaming businesses and will strengthen their ability to plan and invest for the future.
This is particularly important for regional and rural community clubs that are not-for-profit entities who provide important social and economic support and facilities for their communities.
An early allocation of gaming machine entitlements also allows the Andrews Government to continue Labor’s strong record of enforcing harm minimisation measures. These include capping the number of machines across the state over the next 25 years, introducing a $500 daily limit on in-venue EFTPOS withdrawals, imposing regulatory measures that apply to cashless gaming products, and prohibiting venue operators from cashing personal cheques or promoting cheque cashing services.
The Andrew’s Government is providing increased certainty to gaming venue operators, many of whom are vibrant community clubs, while also taking action to minimise gambling-related harm.
RESPONSE TO SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION:
The introduction of a $500 daily EFTPOS limit will significantly improve the current situation where there is no daily limit on cash withdrawals using EFTPOS. This limit will further reduce the ability for patrons to access cash at gaming venues.
A $500 daily EFTPOS limit continues Labor’s proud record of restricting access to cash at gaming venues. Prior to 2003, there were no restrictions on in-venue ATM or EFTPOS withdrawals. Following the passage of the Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2017, and in addition to being the only mainland jurisdiction without ATMs at gaming venues, Victoria will become the only mainland jurisdiction with a daily EFTPOS limit.
The $500 limit is roughly equivalent to the old $400 daily limit that applied to ATM withdrawals, when adjusted for inflation.
The Victorian Government is not aware of any independent evaluation that shows the $200 daily EFTPOS limit introduced in Tasmania has had a significant reduction on gambling harm. It is not possible therefore to conclude anything definitive about the impact on expenditure or harm of a $200 limit.
Furthermore, Victoria has a number of harm minimisation measures that do not exist in Tasmania. These include YourPlay, Australia’s only state-wide networked pre- commitment scheme that was introduced by the Andrews Government in 2015. Victoria has also imposed municipal and regional caps which limit the density of gaming machines in all Victorian municipalities.