Report on Gambling Released
23 June 2010 at 12:59 pm
The Rudd Government says it will support key reforms to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling as recommend by the Productivity Commission.
The Government has released the 2010 Productivity Commission Report into Gambling, four months after it received the report, for consideration by States, Territories, industry and the community.
In an initial response to the 2010 Productivity Commission Report into Gambling, the Government signaled it supports the use of pre-commitment technology to tackle problem gambling and says it is committed to working with State and Territory Governments, and industry, in implementing this technology.
However it says it does not agree with the Productivity Commission recommendation that the Australian Government amend the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 to allow for a liberalisation of online gambling, starting with allowing the provision of online poker games to Australians. The existing rules will continue to apply.
The Government says it does accept that further work can be done to improve harm minimisation measures for electronic gaming machines.
As a result it will contact State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers to recommend the establishment of a new high-level Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Select Council of Ministers on Gambling Reform to progress a national approach to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling. The Select Council will be co-chaired by Ministers Macklin and Sherry.
The Productivity Commission estimates that there are between 80,000 and 160,000 Australian adults suffering severe problem gambling. In addition there are between 230,000 and 350,000 people at moderate risk.
The Productivity Commission’s final report highlights the social cost of gambling, estimated to be at least $4.7 billion estimating that problem gamblers account for around 40 per cent of electronic gaming machine expenditure with a small number of gamblers accounting for a large percentage of losses.
The Productivity Commission also highlighted the gambling sector as an important industry with gambling expenditure exceeding $19 billion and the industry estimated to support the employment of more than 145,000 people.
The Productivity Commission found that pre-commitment is the most effective way to target problem gamblers and at-risk gamblers without impacting upon the wider gambling community and that’s why the Government has committed to developing a pathway towards implementation for pre-commitment.
The Productivity Commission has called for the maximum bet on poker machines to be limited to $1 as part of a massive overhaul of gambling laws.
It found that the existing bet limits are set too high to be effective and it also wants changes to the design of poker machines so they no longer accept $50 notes.
It recommends that all poker machines should gradually be upgraded so they display electronic warnings about the risks associated with a gambler's playing style.
It has also found the large tax concessions on gaming revenue enjoyed by clubs in some jurisdictions cannot be justified, and there are strong grounds for them to be changed.
In the area of online gambling, the Government says it is not convinced that liberalising online gaming would have benefits for the Australian community which would outweigh the risks of an increased incidence of problem gambling, particularly with the rapid changes in technology.
The Government says it will examine the regulatory approach taken by other countries with similar regulatory regimes in relation to online gaming, such as the United States.
In particular, it will seek to work with other countries to investigate the possibility of a more effective multilateral regulatory regime to address this form of gambling, its social impacts and its impact on the Australian gambling industry.
Most recommendations in the report are directed at areas of State Government responsibility but the Rudd Government says it recognises that national leadership is required and will work with State and Territory governments through the new Select Council on Gambling Reform to consider the Productivity Commission’s final report.
This PC report follows a request made by COAG in 2008, through the then Assistant Treasurer, for the Productivity Commission to update its 1999 inquiry into Australia’s gambling industries, with a focus on problem gambling.
The Productivity Commission’s report can be found at: www.pc.gov.au.