(Debate, 17 November 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I oppose the Gaming Machines Amendment (Centralised Monitoring System) Bill because it provides yet another handout to poker machine operators.
Currently, across New South Wales, there are 70,514 gaming machines in 1,212 registered clubs, 23,394 in 1,604 hotels, and 1,500 in the casino. More than half of gambling expenditure in New South Wales occurs on poker machines and poker machines are the source of a large majority of problem gambling.
Large numbers of people have lost their homes and jobs as a result of poker machine gambling and this has had personal impacts on them and their families. I have heard from constituents whose lives have been ruined from gaming machines.
The 2010 Productivity Commission Report on Gambling found people from New South Wales spend $7.15 billion, which is 3.5 per cent of household consumption and higher than any other state or territory, on gambling with 55 per cent of that on electronic gaming machines in clubs and hotels – that’s $10.5 billion a year.
It is now much higher with last month The Sydney Morning Herald reporting an increase of $7 billion in poker machine expenditure since 2011 with one third of the total expenditure coming from five disadvantaged Sydney areas.
The October 26 article states that four of the five suburbs with the largest and fastest growing losses are ranked by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the top five most disadvantaged areas.
The 2010 Productivity Commission Report estimated that regular gaming machine players spend a mammoth $7,000 to $8,000 a year.
The report estimated that problem gamblers account for 22 to 60 per cent of gaming machine spending, which increases to 42 to 75 per cent when combined with use by moderate risk gamblers. Between 80,000 and 160,000 Australian adults suffer from a significant gambling problem and a further 230,000 to 350,000 are vulnerable.
Research by the Victorian State Government, the Salvation Army and Southern Cross University, cited in a City of Sydney 2008 submission on draft poker machine legislation, found that the people most likely to develop a gaming machine problem are males aged 20 to 24 or 65-69 years of age, renters, people living in one bedroom accommodation, people without children, social security recipients, and migrants of European and Asian descent. Poker machine impacts are the greatest on communities that already experience hardship and can exacerbate risks of homelessness.
Despite these serious impacts on our most vulnerable people, the state government has been giving licensed venues with poker machines exemptions to the lockout laws so that people can come and go after 1.30 am to gamble their savings away.
Exemptions are not being given to live music and live entertainment venues or small bars that help civilise the night time economy. Unlike gaming machines, live music and live entertainment add to the culture and vibrancy of the state and support local arts and talent. This government has its priorities wrong!
Why are we seeing another bill aimed at delivering more proceeds to this industry which profits from misery? Government – and opposition – focus must shift towards winding down gambling and working to reduce gaming addiction rather than facilitating it.