Australia: ACT paves the way for TAB sale, while NSW establishes Select Committee on Gambling

Judith Miller and Jaimie Wolbers

In late November 2013, the ACT Minister for Racing and Gaming, Joy Burch, presented the Totalisator Bill 2013 (ACT) (Bill), which is set to repeal the existing Betting (ACTTAB Limited) Act 1964 (ACT) (Act).   The Bill seeks to create a framework to regulate the conduct and operation of totalisator systems and activities by invoking harm minimisation and consumer protection measures.  

The proposed legislation provides a comprehensive direction on licensing arrangements and requirements. The Bill provides for an exclusive licence, continuing the totalisator monopoly in the Territory.  In light of the recent approval by the Legislative Assembly for the sale of  ACTTAB Limited through a competitive bid process,  this will provide some form of assurance for potential bidders.  The ACT Government has indicated that the sale of Australia’s smallest TAB will occur by the end of the 2013/2014 financial year.

Key Proposed Changes

  • The Bill introduces a mechanism for an eligible person (which may be a corporation or an individual) to apply for an exclusive licence to conduct totalisator operations in the Territory. 
  • The current 20 year maximum licencing term is removed, and instead the Minister is given a discretion for determining the period of the licence.
  • The Bill expressly provides that conducting totalisator and/or operating totalisator equipment without a licence is an offence.  There is a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
  • The Bill also creates a positive obligation for the licensee to provide the ACT Racing and Gambling Commission with written notice of any change in circumstance, no later than 14 days after the changed occurs.
  • Where there is belief that the integrity of a totalisator is compromised, the Minister has discretionary powers to provide a written direction and impose an immediate suspension on a licence if deemed necessary. 
  • A list of grounds for disciplinary action against a licensee and the scope of the disciplinary actions which may be taken against a licensee are expressly provided under the Bill.

While the Bill has yet to pass Parliament, it is evident the ACT Government is keen to deliver a modern regulatory framework which clarifies totalisator licensing arrangements as well as responsibilities.

Meanwhile in NSW…

In addition to this recent development in the ACT, the NSW Legislative Council has recently established a Select Committee on Gambling.  The purpose of the Committee is to “inquire into and report on the impact of gambling on individuals and families in New South Wales”. 

The inquiry’s terms of reference are wide reaching and include:

  • the design and accessibility of electronic gaming machines and new and emerging gambling products and services;
  • the regulation of the number and location of electronic and high intensity gaming machines;
  • voluntary pre-commitment technology and operational guidelines;
  • access to cash and credit in and around gambling venues, and the form and delivery of cash prizes;
  • the regulation of telephone and internet gambling services in other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas;
  • the regulation of gambling advertising;
  • exemptions and exceptions to state and federal laws and policies relating to gambling;
  • gambling education including school-based programs, and measures to reduce the exposure of children and young people to gambling activity; and
  • the effectiveness of strategies and models for consumer protection and responses to problem gambling in other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas.

The full terms of reference are available here.

The inquiry is to be chaired by the Honourable Reverend Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party.  The closing date for submissions is 7 March 2014. Given the comprehensive scope of the inquiry, we will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings for you. Watch this space.