Australia: Policy tensions crystallise in NSW Impact of Gambling report and former premier’s comments

On 14 August 2014, the New South Wales Legislative Council’s Select Committee on the Impact of Gambling presented its report to the New South Wales Government (available here). The report is the product of an extensive public inquiry by the Committee and contains 18 recommendations aimed at minimising the negative impacts of problem gambling.

In his forward to the report, chairman of the Committee, the Honourable Reverend Fred Nile, expressed concerns about the increasingly pervasive presence of gambling in society and stressed the ‘paramount’ need for governments to adequately respond to such concerns. However, the report also identifies the commitment of the New South Wales Government to promote economic and social development through the gambling sector, revealing tensions that make policy development difficult.

As previously reported , the Committee was established in November 2013 with wide ranging terms of reference to ‘inquire into and report on the impact of gambling on individuals and families in New South Wales.’ The resulting report covers a multitude of issues relating to gambling in NSW with a particular focus on electronic gaming machines (EGMs), the rise of online gaming and the effectiveness of prevention and treatment services for problem gambling.

The major recommendations made by the report are similarly wide reaching and include:

  • An independent review of the EGM Local Impact Assessment scheme with the objectives that include identifying mechanisms to stop the concentrations of gaming machines in neighbourhoods and clubs where they will cause greater harm.
  • The Government responding to and addressing the findings of the Gambling Research Australia investigation into the relation between the design features of gaming machines and gambling harms.
  • Reviews of the maximum EGM bet limit and jackpot prize.
  • Reviews of the Gaming Machine Regulation 2010 (NSW) regarding venues with EGMs with a view to setting daily cash withdrawal limits on ATMs and minimum distances between ATMs and EGMs.
  • An investigation of third-party exclusion (which allows family members or other relevant persons to apply to have a gambler excluded from a venue on welfare grounds) with a view to implementing a scheme in the state’s clubs and hotels by 2017 at the latest.
  • Lobbying the Australian Government to request that a set of standards be established for online wagering websites and that the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth) be amended to prohibit financial institutions from processing transactions to noncompliant online offshore wagering websites.
  • Launching various awareness campaigns including a program dedicated to the risks of online gaming and healthy lifestyle initiatives for schools.

The New South Wales Government must provide a response to the report by 16 February 2015.

Meanwhile, former Victorian premier, the Honourable Jeffrey Kennett, has been contributing to the debate on the regulation of gambling advertising in Australia. Mr Kennett is reportedly engaging in discussions with various members of the Federal Senate, including independent Senator Nick Xenophon, regarding a proposal that gambling advertising in all forms and for all products, including sports betting and lottery tickets, should be prohibited. 

We will continue to monitor whether these calls for reform at both the state and federal levels of government gain traction over the coming months.

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Co-authored by Judith MIller, Partner, DLA Piper, Jaimie Wolbers, Solicitor, DLA Piper, Joseph Smith-Davies, Graduate, DLA Piper.