Restored to the Notice Paper

Judith Miller and Jaimie Wolbers

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who was first elected to the Senate on the back of an anti-poker machine campaign, has accused the Coalition Government of being captive to vested interests in the pokies industry. Senator Xenaphon  is one of the sponsors (along with the Green’s Senator Richard Di Natale and the Democratic Labor Party’s Senator John Madigan) of the Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012 [2013] ($1 Bets Bill) which was restored to the Notice Paper. Debate on the $1 Bets Bill commenced in the Senate on 5 December 2012 but was adjourned.   During the debate, Senator Di Natale said:

I thought I would be standing up today and giving a speech to argue the case for $1 bet limits, but it seems that, on the back of the legislation introduced by the government to repeal the very modest reforms around poker machines introduced in the last parliament, we are not just fighting for what is the appropriate response to limiting harm from poker machines but fighting a rearguard action against some of the most modest reforms we have seen anywhere in the country.

In the last sitting days of the Senate for 2013, Senator Xenophon also restored the Anti-Money Laundering Amendment (Gaming Machine Venues) Bill 2012 and the Interactive Gambling and Broadcasting Amendment (Online Transactions and Other Measures) Bill 2011 to the Notice Paper.

The first of these Bills seeks to prevent money laundering through poker machines. A key measure that it proposes is that all payouts (of prizes and unplayed credits) over $1000 must be made by cheque. The second Bill seeks to prohibit spot betting, exotic betting and in-play betting, it also seeks to introduce match-fixing as crime under the Criminal Code Act 1995 that will be punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or attract 10,000 penalty units, or both. (Currently, a penalty unit is $170 for an individual. It is multiplied by five when applied to a corporation.)

It is clear that Senator Xenaphon will continue to try to execute his gaming and gambling reform agenda in 2014. However, in light of the current statements from both the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition, it is doubtful that these Bills will be passed into law.