Australia: Gambling reforms scrapped by Coalition

In recent weeks, the Australian Coalition Government has continued to take steps to implement its “policy to help problem gamblers”, as previously discussed here.

The Coalition’s proposed Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (Bill) repeals a number of the measures introduced by the Gillard Labor Government in late 2012 in the National Gambling Reform Act 2012 (Cth) (Act).  In addition to rebranding the Act as the Gambling Measures Act, Schedule 1 of the Bill proposes to repeal the vast majority of the sections currently contained in the Act, including provisions relating to:

  • the Gillard Government’s proposed mandatory pre-commitment system;
  • dynamic warnings (which relate to the use by a specific person of a gaming machine or the potential for harm from and cost of using gaming machines generally);
  • ATM withdrawal limits for gaming machine premises; and
  • civil penalty provisions for non-compliance with the reforms.

What will remain are some overarching statements about the Commonwealth’s support for the encouragement of responsible gambling and the introduction of voluntary pre-commitment technology.  If the Act is amended as proposed, it will also contain a non-binding commitment from the Commonwealth to work with state and territory governments, the gaming industry, academics, and the community to develop a scheme to implement voluntary pre-commitment on machines and across venues and a “realistic” timetable for the implementation of such measures.

Some of the provisions in the Act regarding research into gambling and the development of an Expert Advisory Group on Gambling will also remain.

Labor has recently indicated that it supports the Bill, backflipping on its formerly pro-reform stance.  However, it has proposed that existing voluntary pre-commitment programs be connected to state-wide schemes.

The Bill is now before the Senate. We will keep you posted as to the progress of the Bill.