Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:46): I would like to briefly speak on the Casino Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Implementation and Other Matters) Bill 2022. I think, as we have heard from some of my colleagues here today, it is quite pleasing to come to the end of this term with some positive work done in this area. This bill acquits most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. Many of you will recall that I raised the matter of Crown Casino as a matter of public importance in this chamber. It was knocked out at the time, but I feel like I was absolutely vindicated by what happened after. Certainly I would like to commend, while I am on my feet, Mr Andrew Wilkie in the federal Parliament for the tireless work that he has done on exposing the criminal elements of not just Crown Casino but also, as we are seeing play out, Star casino in New South Wales.
Among other things, this bill will strengthen anti-money-laundering measures and implement mandatory precommitment and other gambling harm minimisation measures at the casino, and these are important reforms. I know most of us have walked through the casino at some time; while many people might be enjoying themselves, we see many people who are not. Certainly, as the chair of the criminal justice inquiry—and even looking at the other justice inquiries that we have done over this term, be that spent convictions or even the impact of parental incarceration on children—we have seen the thread of gambling that weaves its damaging and life-destroying path through so many people’s lives, that leads them into our criminal justice system, that creates circumstances of family violence at home and that leads, ultimately and tragically, to loss of life.
So these are important changes, but I think sadly there is also a missed opportunity. As the Alliance for Gambling Reform have indicated—and I know others have referred to the alliance—while they are glad to see the government make every effort to legislate and meet the recommendations of the Crown royal commission before the election, it is absolutely critical that the government commit to mandatory precommitment on all poker machines statewide, not just at the casino. It troubles me that on one hand we are acknowledging the harms—and we are acknowledging them by accepting the recommendations of the royal commission and by putting forward this legislation today—but we are failing to recognise that the vast majority of poker machine gambling is not happening at the casino.
In fact only 10 per cent of pokies are located at the casino. The rest are in our electorates. The rest are in some of the most disadvantaged areas of our electorates, and I know Dr Ratnam and I in Northern Metropolitan carry a fair proportion of those poker machines in some of the poorest pockets of our electorate.
Mandatory precommitment has the ability to reduce gambling harm by ensuring people set time and monetary limits and stick to them. The bill also ensures identity measures that will also prevent money laundering. If this happens at the casino but not at other poker machine venues, well, it is a bit of a whack-a-mole project, isn’t it. We may reduce this harm and we may reduce this happening at the casino, but it means that we may be seeing that crime and that harm relocated to our pubs and clubs in our communities. And, as we say, we know that gambling harm is not isolated to the casinos.
Victoria just experienced the highest losses ever recorded in one month, in July 2022. That was $270 million in our pubs and clubs. That is how much money went through our poker machines. Certainly it is why this is not the first time that I have stood up and spoken about this. I have certainly put up amendments in this area, not just in this term but in the last term. It is why Reason has a longstanding policy to reduce the negative impacts of poker machines and promote responsible gambling—doing simple things like making the maximum bet per spin $1, reducing maximum daily trading hours at poker machine venues and the density of poker machines per electorate, making transparent the lobbying activities of pokie providers and their influence on government and engaging in long-term planning to try and decouple the government from poker machine revenue. I know it is not easy, but some of these actually are quite simple. And they are tools and measures that our communities have been crying out for, particularly those that have experienced firsthand, as many of us have, the harms of gambling addiction. This is the way we save lives and reduce the significant harm associated with gambling, and that, as I mentioned earlier, includes mental health, it includes suicide, it includes family violence and it includes the incarceration of many of our citizens.
Having made these points it will not be surprising that I will be supporting Dr Ratnam’s amendments here. It may be more surprising that I will also be supporting Dr Cumming’s amendments here today, but for the same reasons that I spoke about last year in December, I will not be supporting Mr Davis’s.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading 20/9/22