23 October 2018
(Bills - Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, Parliament House)
I have long campaigned for the scaling back of gambling in this State, and strongly believe we urgently need to cut the massive hold that the gambling industry has on policy decisions made by governments and oppositions in this House. The Betting Tax Amendment (Point of Consumption) Bill will introduce a long-overdue tax on wagering at the point of consumption to ensure that tax can be collected for bets made with online bookmakers located out of the State when the bet is placed by someone in the State, which I strongly support.
Online gambling is growing. Australia is now the world's, second largest sports betting market, and data shows that sports bets in the 2016-17 financial year were up 15.3 per cent on the previous year to more than $1 billion. Expenditure on racing bets also grew by 6.9 per cent to a whopping $3.3 billion. It is vital that these industries contribute to State revenue. However, it is disappointing that the Government will not set a 15 per cent tax rate as adopted in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, but will instead impose a smaller 10 per cent rate. That will result in significant lost revenue for the State in order to help an industry that has, as its core business model, profit from people losing money they cannot afford to lose.
A total of 2 per cent of the tax will also be reinvested in gambling through promised subsidies to horseracing and greyhound racing. In 2015 when the Government introduced the greyhound racing ban, it was a move to be proud of. It proved that it could act on principle to end an abhorrent form of animal cruelty despite a tough campaign from a very vocal industry of bullies that the Opposition took political advantage of when it could have worked to end suffering. The backflip was a massive blow and we know that the deaths, culls and cruelty in greyhound racing continue worse than ever. That makes it all the more disappointing that the new consumption tax will be used to further prop up racing.
This year Greyhound Racing was already delivered an additional $500,000 to use as prize money for the Million Dollar Chase. That taxpayer money is being used to encourage people to lose their money in an industry that the Government admitted only three years ago was inherently and irreparably cruel. Another embarrassing example of the racing and gambling industry's hold on this Government is the Government's interference through antiquated laws that allow it to direct an independent trust in order to ensure The Everest horse race could be advertised and displayed on the Sydney Opera House sails. The community outrage was about more than just the commercialisation of this country's most iconic and World Heritage-listed building, but about where power lies in this State. The political decision had nothing to do with community benefit but was made purely to appease the racing and gambling industry, which most see as destructive. The Sydney Opera House fiasco happened during the Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. Ironically that week the Coalition also entered into a memorandum of understanding [MOU] with clubs that will extend their lowest pokies tax in the country and their ability to use the most addictive gaming machines. Gaming machine losses have surged and are now expected to continue to grow. The majority of the loss is from the almost 70,000 poker machines in clubs.
We have the world record for gaming machine loss and harm. Since the Coalition's last MOU, about $24 billion have been lost on poker machines alone, equivalent to $1,000 per New South Wales resident each year. New South Wales spends the most on gaming machines in Australia in a country that has more gaming machines than any other country in the world and the largest number of problem gamblers. Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello compares gambling industries to the American gun lobby. I agree that gambling remains an area of policy and law where protecting the community from harm is sacrificed to prop up a vocal and destructive industry. We need to break this cycle and it will require courage from all sides of this House. I support the consumption tax and hope it will be strengthened and redirected away from racing, and that we see future governments work to protect our most vulnerable from the harms of gambling instead of bowing to a greedy and predatory industry.