Wednesday, 18 October 2023


Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023


Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Melissa Horne:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Martin CAMERON (Morwell) (11:16): I stand here today to speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, and first I would like to thank the member for Gippsland South for providing the report to us and explaining it to us so well. I do note that we do not oppose the bill, but the member for Gippsland South has put forward an amendment, which has been circulated. This bill implements the first lot of gaming industry reforms announced by the Labor government in July 2023, namely the introduction of mandatory closure periods for gaming machine areas other than at the Crown Casino between 4 am and 10 am. It also amends the provisions relating to the appointment of a manager of the casino should the licence of the operator be cancelled, suspended or surrendered; corrects some anomalies on dates for the introduction of the new payment of winnings provisions; and provides a new power for the minister to ban betting on certain activities outside of Victoria.

The government announced on 16 July a series of gaming reforms, including mandatory closure periods between 4 am and 10 am; statewide mandatory precommitment and carded play, which is already legislated in the casino; a reduction in load-up limits on gaming machines from $1000 to $100; and reduced spin rates on gaming machines. It is fair to say that these reforms came a little bit out of the blue. Notwithstanding consistent and ongoing campaigning from anti-gambling groups, there was little additional public pressure on government and no obvious catalyst for such a dramatic change. Industry was taken by surprise, particularly the pubs and clubs who would have only just begun a 20-year licence and sale period in 2022, so not too long ago, raising genuine sovereign risk questions. However, given public concern over problem gambling, industry public response was somewhat muted. I do note that everywhere across Victoria our problem gambling is a concern. I know they have just released rates and percentages. At the moment I think all percentages of gambling across most municipalities are up, especially in the Latrobe Valley. Our rates have also risen, so we do realise there is an issue with problem gambling. Mandatory carded play and other reforms are more significant and are belatedly now the subject of an engagement program by the government.

Legislative reforms on these matters are not expected until 2024 at the earliest. Reforms to casino legislation continue in response to the royal commission and address the prospect either genuine or otherwise of Crown losing its licence and a manager being appointed until the new licence is issued. No concerns have been raised about the changes to the casino managing downtime and expanded prohibition on betting contingencies outside Victoria. These are all uncontroversial and were relayed in the royal commission, where Crown were found to be doing things not to the best of their ability. So these are good things that have come out of the royal commission.

The pubs and clubs sector, though, are probably not happy with the broader reforms and believe it is unfair that the new mandatory closure periods will be applied to pubs and clubs but not the casino. The casino is allowed to continue to trade on that 24/7 rotation. We propose an amendment, which the member for Gippsland South has done, to create an exemption to the closing rules in the inner city for those venues that compete with Crown. There is an argument that shiftworkers and others with irregular patterns of work and leisure are disadvantaged by the new 6-hour enforced closure. At the extreme end there is also an argument about restraint of trade and personal liberty to do what you want to do with your own money.

As I said before, for someone like me that does not gamble a lot, and probably for most in here, to have a period where you cannot gamble between 4 am and 10 am in venues is a good thing. But in my former role as a plumber I used to work in these venues early in the mornings – doing plumbing, not actually putting money in the machines – and there was that group of people, whether they were the bakers that were coming off cooking bread and stuff for us or shiftworkers going through, that did meet and have a beer and put some money through the poker machines. That was their daily role. Whereas we end up at the end of the day being able to go for a beer and, if we want to, have a bit of a gamble in these establishments at 5 o’clock and afterwards, well, 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning was the end of their workday, and they were doing the same thing. So we can see the reasons there that maybe some of these pubs and clubs are a little bit concerned. But as I said, with our problem gambling, I think it is a good idea that we do have some downtime, and 4 am to 10 am seems to be consistent right across the board.

The government has no mandate for the reforms, having made no such commitments at the last election. This, coupled with lack of consultation and the sovereign risk issue of government changing the electronic gaming machine rules only a year after entering into a 20-year arrangement with the pubs and clubs, should be used to cause debate that we can stand up and talk about.

Mandatory closing hours – going to some of the clauses, clause 26 is in two paragraphs and implements the mandatory 4 am to 10 am closure period for gambling machine areas via a new division in the Gambling Regulation Act 2003. Venues are still able to be open, but these other particular services will be closed in those time slots. Despite the government spruiking its strongest casino laws in the world in the second-reading speech, this closure period does not apply to Crown Casino. In the bill briefing the government indicated this is due to the casino’s status as a destination in itself, a tourism attraction and part of Melbourne’s international appeal. This is very hard to argue with – I know in times when we come down from the country we all gravitate towards Crown Casino – despite the apparent unfairness applied to smaller venues, especially those that do operate in close proximity to Crown Casino. The government argues this change is needed because it has seen evidence of neighbouring venues staggering their opening times while adhering to 20-hour maximum venue operating times to facilitate 24/7 gambling by punters in certain locations, most particularly the outer suburbs.

Clauses 16 to 25 largely repeal existing provisions in gambling legislation. A new part 2A is being inserted into the principal act to clarify powers of the manager who would be appointed in the event the casino licence is cancelled, surrendered or suspended. These provisions largely replicate provisions in the existing act, with some modifications to better protect both the manager and the state’s interests, including in the event of administration or liquidation of the operator. That just ensures that Crown Casino can continue to operate. It does also speak about other facts. If there are cleaning staff that are working at Crown Casino but also at their hotel sites, it will not affect them as such, and they can keep going. The second area relates to the timing of new cashless gaming requirements and seeks to limit money-laundering opportunities by capping payouts of winnings in cash.

In the short time that it appears I have left – it does not seem like I have been speaking that long, but that is fine – as I said, we all realise that there are people that do gamble a lot and it does harm them, it does harm their families and it does harm the community, but our pubs and clubs are also of benefit to our community, supporting our sporting fraternities, supporting our services and creating jobs for our communities. As I said, we are not opposing the bill.

Juliana ADDISON (Wendouree) (11:26): I thank the last speaker for taking his full 10 minutes; it is much appreciated. I too am very pleased to speak in support of the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, following on from many excellent contributions from this side of the house, particularly the member for Eureka, who shared her lived experience of gambling harm and the impact that it had on her family. It is for families like hers and so many others that we are introducing these changes. The Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 will deliver a wide range of gambling harm reforms and will improve the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. I thank the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, as well as her office and the department, for their work on these reforms and for bringing this bill to the house.

I want to put it on the record: I appreciate that gambling is enjoyed by many Victorians and it does not cause them harm. I enjoy a bet or two at the Ballarat Cup, and I like to join in the punters club at the Ballarat & District Trotting Club’s racing events. However, this is not the case for all gamblers across my community and across our state. Word of the day: ludomania. Ludomania is repetitive gambling behaviour despite harm and negative consequences. Interestingly, ‘ludo’ comes from the Latin for ‘to play’, so ‘ludomania’ means ‘play mania’.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics reveal that in 2022, 46 per cent of Australians aged 18 and over who gambled would be classified as at risk or already experiencing gambling harm. The data shows that men who gambled were at a greater risk, at 53 per cent, compared to women at 38 per cent. Many people have talked about statistics, and I think it is important to keep going back to them, because Australia’s average gambling losses are the highest of any country in the world, with losses of $1276 per person. Between 2011 and 2019 Australia’s problem gambling rates more than doubled, from 0.6 per cent of the adult population to 1.23 per cent.

Gambling harm is an issue of concern in my community. In the last financial year more than $64.3 million was lost on gaming machines in Ballarat. It is a lot for a city with a population of approximately 120,000 people. More than $42 million of that figure was lost at venues in my electorate of Wendouree – $42 million – and the impacts of problem gambling are well known to many across my electorate. These losses are not just financial. Gambling harm leads to relationship breakdown, to mental health issues and to a decline in general health and wellbeing. It impacts on friendships, it impacts on trust, it impacts on so many different aspects of people’s lives.

I want to acknowledge and recognise the work of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Ballarat Community Health, CAFS – which stands for Child & Family Services Ballarat – the City of Ballarat, the Ballarat East Neighbourhood House and the many other organisations that address gambling harm in my community. Just yesterday the Ballarat gambling harm prevention taskforce held an event at the town hall and this year’s focus was how to have a conversation with someone whose gambling is becoming a concern. I think we all agree that this is an important conversation to have, so I hope that event was successful. I was sorry that I was unable to attend.

For many Victorians gambling is not a benign activity, and so we need to ensure that protections are afforded to all of those who gamble. Far too often we see stories in the news of upstanding citizens’ lives destroyed by gambling addiction, such as the high-profile case of the former Melbourne High School business manager who pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $430,000 over 10 years from the school. She was sentenced to two years jail with a minimum of 14 months in prison. On 254 occasions between 2012 and 2021 she transferred school funds into her personal bank account. The reason for the theft was to fuel her gambling problem. Frances Walshe’s lawyer explained that her gambling habit had got out of hand extraordinarily quickly and that playing those machines provided some of the only solace that she enjoyed. It is hard to believe. I am a former teacher, and we all know the business managers, who work so hard in our schools. They are in a respected position, a position of trust. Just think that Frances Walshe, who was in that position of trust, is now in prison because of her addiction to poker machines.

In supporting this bill I think of people in my community who have suffered from the harms of problem gambling and the devastating effects it continues to have. Sadly, the impacts of gambling harm are intergenerational and widespread, and this needs to be addressed. I would like to share the experiences of a constituent I met during pre-poll at the 2022 campaign. Over the two weeks I came to know a man who was at the shopping centre first thing every morning. I would watch as he would walk around the centre car park and outside the building looking for discarded cigarette butts that he could smoke. It was clear by looking at him that life had been tough on him, and he was a broken man. Each morning I would greet him and ask him how he was going. As the days went on I asked him about his life, and he explained to me that his life had been destroyed by gambling. He shared with me that as a child growing up his father was a problem gambler on the horses. This took a monumental toll on him, as his father’s losses led to violence and economic hardship for the family. However, after his rough start to life, things were looking brighter. He married, bought a house and had his own family. Sadly, the harmful impacts of gambling would once again haunt him after his wife became addicted to gaming machines. This had a devastating impact on him. Money for the family and for the household bills would be gambled away, and then she would become aggressive and violent, demanding access to more money to gamble. The impacts of her gambling addiction led to the loss of their house and the breakdown of their marriage, leaving him with nothing. He now lives in public housing and, very sadly, has very little to live for. For the people like this man and his family and so many others, I am supporting the reforms to reduce gambling harm.

That is what this government is doing. A comprehensive package of gambling reforms was announced in July that will better protect all Victorians who gamble and which particularly focuses on improving protections for those who experience harm. The reform agenda includes introducing mandatory closing times for gaming machines in areas outside a casino, reducing load limits from $1000 to $100 and increasing spin rates to slow the rate of play. I have got to get my head around that. We are increasing spin rates, but it will actually slow down the rate of play on new gaming machines, which consequently reduces the speed at which money can be lost and, very significantly, the speed at which money can be laundered. As well we have statewide mandatory precommitment and carded play, which will be an important safeguard for gaming machine users, preventing them from spending and, very importantly, losing outside of their limits.

The Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 is a step towards the delivery of vital gambling harm reforms. They will further improve the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. Importantly, the proposed amendments to the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 – this is what is proposed – introduce the mandatory closing period that many people have talked about, from 4 am until 10 am, during which gaming machines outside of those in the casino cannot be played. My former office was next to the George Hotel in Ballarat. It was amazing to see how early people would get there each morning to play the pokies, so I think that this closing period from 4 am to 10 am is going to have some positive impacts. This is an improvement on the current requirements, which mandate a daily 4-hour break but not at a specific time. What is important as well is that this 6-hour shutdown will provide an important break in play. At the beginning I talked about ludomania – play mania. If we are able to disrupt play with this 6-hour shutdown, which means that you cannot shop around and find another venue that will host you, we will be trying to reduce that mania and trying to say that your gambling is a problem and you need to have a break.

I have run out of time, so I will just quickly explain that I support this bill for the many important reforms that it is delivering, including the closing times, ensuring that offences can apply if prohibited betting products are offered from interstate – in order to further protect Victorians from gambling harm – and strengthening the role of the statutory manager. I commend this important bill, the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill, to the house.

Tim READ (Brunswick) (11:36): The Greens will support the government’s Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. Most of the provisions in the bill legislate the remaining recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. We commend the minister on finalising this work. Mind you, legislating all the recommendations was imperative in this case given that the royal commission found:

Within a very short time, the Commission discovered that for many years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful. This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.

We know that there is an important deadline coming up. The royal commission found that Crown was not fit to hold a casino licence and granted a specific two-year period in which an external special manager has overseen all aspects of the casino’s operations and ensured all rules and regulations are complied with. That two-year period ends in January 2024. The special manager will report to the regulator, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, and the regulator will then decide whether it is clearly satisfied that Crown Melbourne has returned to suitability. If the regulator is not clearly satisfied, Crown’s licence will be cancelled. We will be watching with interest in the lead-up to that deadline.

This leads me to a related aspect of the bill, which is to provide powers to the special manager to be able to wind down operations and disburse assets, including assets owned by Crown’s parent company. It is good to see these additional powers in the bill should the licence be cancelled. Also in this bill there is a provision allowing the minister to set the date for commencing the provision whereby the casino cannot pay out more than $1000 in winnings in cash to an individual without confirming their identity. This has taken longer than expected, but we are advised by the minister’s office that this has been to allow time for the rollout of mandatory carded, or cashless, gambling across the whole casino, which will allow tracking of an individual’s wins or losses across the whole venue and across different gambling mechanisms such as poker machines and table games. This will enable implementation of the royal commission’s recommendations. It is slower than stakeholders have called for – at least, stakeholders other than Crown – but at least it is being implemented.

The bill includes a very welcome step that will reduce the harm done to those who gamble. The Greens have long advocated for longer and uniform mandatory closure times for venues that have poker machines – that is, venues outside of the casino. We all know these venues are primarily pubs and clubs in our neighbourhoods and regions, and they are the site of so much gambling harm in our state. The Greens policy is that mandatory closing hours should be from midnight to 10 am. We see in the bill that the government proposes only a standard 4 am to 10 am closure time. Under standing orders, I wish to advise the house of amendments to this bill and request that they be circulated.

Amendments circulated under standing orders.

Tim READ: These amendments amend the bill so that mandatory closing hours start at midnight, not 4 am. While we acknowledge a standard closing time will stop venues in close proximity from staggering their opening hours, which has been a significant problem, there is persuasive evidence that substantial harm occurs on poker machines between midnight and 4 am. Only in July this year, during public hearings for the inquiry into the Victorian Auditor-General’s reports no. 99 Follow up of Regulating Gambling and Liquor of 2019 and no. 213 Reducing the Harm Caused by Gambling of 2021, we saw expert witnesses provide clear evidence that harms increase during later hours. Professor Samantha Thomas is a specialist in determinants of public health in the school of health and social development at Deakin University, and her evidence on opening hours is worth reading into the record:

As far as I am aware, there are 485 venues in Victoria … 107 of them are open at 4 am and 361 of them are open at 2 am. Now, the most recent evidence that comes out of New South Wales shows that between midnight and 2 am we start to see the harm increase, and then at about 2 am we start to see it increase significantly again. So there does not seem to be a compelling reason for a 4 am close when we know that the harm is starting to amplify much earlier than that.

The gambling industry continues to cause significant avoidable harm to individuals and families in our community. Based on sound evidence the Greens amendment would allow 10 hours where people and communities are protected from the saturation level of poker machines that exists across our state. This would be a notable step in mitigating harm against individuals and communities by poker machines.

In conclusion, while we commend the minister and government for these reforms, we know they represent only small steps in the right direction, and there is much more that needs to be done. We look forward to working with the minister to develop comprehensive reforms based on a public health harm reduction framework, and the Greens will continue to advocate for further changes to protect our community from the predatory gambling industry.

Ella GEORGE (Lara) (11:42): Today I rise in support of the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, especially this week, as we are recognising Gambling Harm Awareness Week. I think we are all aware of the harm that gambling causes within our communities and the ripple effect it has not just on the gambler but their loved ones as well. Problem gambling has a huge impact on families and communities, and that is why this bill is so important. That is exactly why the Allan Labor government has introduced this bill – to reduce the harm that gambling has on individuals, their families and communities.

We have heard from many members about the impacts that problem gambling has on the community, and Geelong is not immune to the harm caused by gambling. In the Geelong region, September figures showed that more than $11.6 million was lost on pokies during July compared to $10.7 million in June. In fact $135 million was lost on pokie machines during the last financial year, and across Victoria we saw losses hit over $3 billion. That is just on pokie machines, and as we all know, there are many other forms of gambling. Earlier this year the Andrews Labor government announced the most significant package of gambling reforms in Australia, and now the Allan Labor government continues this important work, with the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 delivering the first of these reforms. Before I get onto the details of the bill, I would like to thank the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation for her work in this space. She should be proud of her hard work in leading these nation-leading reforms. I would also like to thank and commend all of the brave individuals who have stepped forward to speak about their own experiences of problem gambling. This legislation was developed with people who have lived experiences, and I offer my deepest thanks and gratitude for all those involved in shaping these important reforms.

The intention of this bill is to amend the Casino Control Act 1991, the Casino (Management Agreement) Act 1993 and the Gambling Regulation Act 2003. This will deliver gambling harm reform and improve the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. These amendments will go a long way towards reducing the harm caused by problem gambling. They will enforce mandatory closure periods for all gaming machine areas in venues except for the casino between 4 am and 10 am every day. They will reduce the cap on load-up limits – how much money a person can lose on poker machines at any one time – from $1000 to $100, and they will also extend the minister’s powers to ban harmful betting on activities that take place outside of Victoria such as on sports played by minors, providing more control over betting that is not in the public interest. And they will slow the spin rate of new poker machines to 3 seconds a game. Those reforms will help uphold our reputation as the state with the strongest gambling harm protections in the nation.

One of the key changes that will come from this amendment bill is the requirement for all gaming machine areas, except those in Crown Casino, to be forced to shut from 4 am to 10 am each day. This forced break is an important step in our plan for gambling harm prevention. In some areas across Victoria we have venues that are closed at different times, effectively allowing for 24-hour, seven-day-a-week gambling. In the electorate of Lara there are nine venues that operate pokies machines. They are all within a 20-minute drive of each other, the closest of these being 650 metres from each other, which is less than a 10-minute walk. By car this would only be a 1- or 2-minute trip. These nine venues have very different operating hours. As I mentioned, in some areas there is access to poker machines 24 hours of the day, and we have heard firsthand from people who suffer from gambling addiction and who believe that staggered hours only increase gambling harms. If we are serious about gambling harm minimisation, it is essential that we look at mandatory closure periods that apply to all venues.

These reforms will see load-up limits – how much money an individual can put into a gaming machine at any time – capped at $100. This is currently capped at $1000. These reforms will also see the extension of mandatory precommitment to all gaming machines. YourPlay is the Victorian government’s precommitment scheme, which empowers players to make more informed decisions about their machine play. The scheme allows people to set limits on time or money spent and keep track of their own gaming machine play. The South Australian Centre for Economic Studies produced an evaluation report on YourPlay, Victoria’s voluntary precommitment scheme. The report shows that players who use YourPlay have experienced harm protection benefits, so this is an important reform. In addition to these measures, we will introduce regulatory change that will see all new poker machines spin at a rate of 3 seconds a game. This will slow down the pace of the game and limit the amount of money that can be lost.

This bill also goes to reduce the risks to children when it comes to harmful betting. The bill will extend the minister’s power to ban harmful betting on activities that take place outside of Victoria such as sports played by minors, providing more control over betting that is not in the public interest and is out of step with community expectations. It is really shocking to hear that you can place bets on sports being played by children. Earlier in the year we heard that major betting companies were taking bets on international cricket matches where most players were under 18. Personally I think it should be obvious that children should be off-limits when it comes to making profits for gambling companies.

This bill will ensure that betting practices that are not in line with community expectations cannot be offered to Victorians. Not only is it important to address instances of betting on under-age sport – because I think we can all agree that children’s sport should not be a place for big wagering companies to make a buck – but it is important to take these steps to reduce normalisation of gambling for kids. Research published in March this year by the Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies details that 53 per cent of Australians believe that betting advertising normalises gambling among children. With statistics like this, taking action now on under-age betting markets is even more important.

The electorate of Lara is home to an incredible community. It is a resilient community, but sadly some suburbs face higher levels of disadvantage than other parts of our state. In 2016 the Australian Gambling Research Centre completed an Australian-first study which showed that gamblers in poorer suburbs are losing more than three times the money to poker machines compared to gamblers in more advantaged areas. As I mentioned earlier, there are nine pokies venues in the Lara electorate, and there are another 17 venues across the 60 suburbs that make up the Geelong region. That is 26 venues in total. The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation reports that on average $285,338 is spent on pokies per day in the Geelong region. That is over $100 million spent on pokies per year. Given the large number of venues that have pokies that are located in the northern suburbs of Geelong, it is safe to say that the losses in these suburbs in my community must be considerable.

Geelong-based organisation Meli provides support to problem gamblers and their families and runs education and awareness programs about problem gambling. They find that contact is often made with them at crisis stage, when clients may be facing financial stress, unable to pay for basic necessities like food or petrol or be behind on rent or bills. At this point, their clients are often experiencing depression and poor mental health. There may be significant relationship conflict or breakdowns, and family violence may be an issue. It is incredibly sad to hear that it is at this point when people are seeking help. Another trend that Meli are seeing in their clients is an increase in parents and guardians seeking help on behalf of their younger sons who are engaging in problem gambling. They report that one in three young people think that betting on sports apps is normal behaviour. To me, that is another reason why these reforms to minimise gambling harm are so important.

Many of my colleagues have shared their own stories of encountering people in their electorates who have experienced problem gambling, and I would like to briefly share one too. In the lead-up to the state election, I knocked on the door of a gentleman’s house, and I started a conversation with him to introduce myself and to see how he was going. He told me that things were going pretty well with nothing really to complain about or bring to my attention. He was about to close the door and he said, ‘Actually, there is just one thing. Can you do something about the poker machines in my street? They are so close – it is just too easy.’ This gentleman lived a 5-minute walk away from a pokies venue, and while these reforms do not address this issue of a pokies venue being so close to his home, I think this is just one of the many stories from our communities that speaks to the importance of reforms that minimise gambling harm.

These reforms are needed. They are needed right across the state, and they are needed in the communities that I represent. I think most of us understand the effects of gambling are costing our community far too much – and it is not just about the money. People lose their relationships, their employment, their health and their wellbeing. These changes will go a long way in reducing the harm that comes from problem gambling. That is why I am proud to support this bill and I commend it to the house.

Paul EDBROOKE (Frankston) (11:52): It is a delight to get up on my feet today and speak about this bill. Of course, we have heard from many speakers across both sides of the chamber that have shared their personal stories in regard to this bill. Certainly in Frankston we have that commonality too. I have spoken in this house before of my thoughts on gambling and problem gambling. Of course, as per members before me, I do believe that there is time and patience, and I guess an activity for families and friends to go out and take a punt, but there is the subject of problem gambling, which is not a benign issue in a community such as Frankston.

I have touched before on the Frankston Dolphins. It is an interesting tale of a VFL footy club that lost its VFL licence. We ran a pretty hard-won campaign to make sure they could get their licence back after two years, and everybody is behind the VFL Dolphins. We have not had a great run over the past couple of months, but that is all right – next season will be great. The biggest issue for the Frankston Dolphins, though, was pokies. Here is another, I guess, commercial side to what is being painted as a very personal problem and indeed is a very personal problem for many members of my community. Like many stakeholders in small communities, pokies are put out there as a means to make money. What effectively happened, in very broad terms, to the Frankston footy club was that the person in charge of the funds was not doing a good job – there is that – and they decided to invest in pokies and bought the licences at a very high cost. Nobody in the world thinks that pokies are not there to make money. Their algorithms are absolutely designed for people to put money in and to give people incentives. It is very Pavlovian. But they make money – that is their point. Nobody at the Frankston footy club thought they would lose money on the pokies.

What happened was the licence costs went down, and they found that their pokies were worth pretty much zero on the market and they would not even be able to get rid of them. It was a time of great stress for the club. Not many people actually understood what was going on. At the time we were able to write off that debt – the state government did. It was a $500,000 debt in the end to get that club to get rid of pokies. In the end it was not a hard ask to make sure everyone at that club agreed that we would get rid of those pokies and we would not bring pokies back to a sporting club in Frankston. Lesson learned. We have now got a football club that has gone on to bigger and better things. We have got the floodlights there. We have got AFLW games on weekends. It is amazing. It is a family place again, but it is, I guess, an example of a more commercial-side issue to this problem.

Like many who have got up and spoken on this bill, I am very cognisant of the effects of gambling in my community. In the local pub there are no clocks on the wall. It is dark. People walk in, or sometimes they come in with their frames, and they are unable to tell the time. They lose time. They have got people who continue to – ‘care’ for them might not be the right word – incentivise them to stay there with their actions: ‘Would you like a tea or coffee? Would you like a Coke?’ ‘Look, we’ve got a free special here on meals.’ ‘How about a pot? It’s on the house.’ It is literally no different to how they deal with the high rollers in Vegas. Louis Theroux has got some very interesting docos; I love Louis. He has got one on gambling and how they treat the high rollers in Vegas, and it is exactly the same kind of experience, just on a different level – ‘Here, have a $300 cigar’, ‘Here, we will upgrade your room’ – anything to keep those people there and keep them losing money to the house.

There is no way that we are ever going to convince someone with an addiction that they have an issue unless they accept it, whether that is in alcohol and other drug areas or whether that is in gambling. It was a very unique experience to go up to a place called Foundation House in New South Wales, a union-run residential rehab which deals with all sorts of addiction, including gambling. I would put a plug in here for what we want down here, working with many unions, called the Crossing, which would be a residential rehab with detox down here as well.

A member interjected.

Paul EDBROOKE: Hear, hear. But in dealing with some of these people I was invited into what I felt was a very private space. They had the 12 steps and all this kind of stuff. Seeing some of these people and how addiction had changed their lives, but on the flip side how they were able to get their lives back on track, was pretty amazing. It was a bit of an epiphany.

When we have legislation like this that comes through the house, what it is really doing is helping people who might have an addiction, might be predisposed to the addiction, from really falling down that kind of rabbit hole. When we have limits on spins, when we have time limits, which are in this bill, and when we have limits on the amount of cash you can get out – we have heard how these things have been done in other states and other nations – they do work. There is no doubt about that. What I am hoping with this bill is that we can get to a point where we have less people homeless in places like Frankston, less people come into electorate offices saying ‘I’ve been kicked out of home because my daughter got sick of me pilfering from my granddaughter’s piggy bank to get change – I knew I’d pay her back later’. More power to people who can actually come through that. But they need help, and this is how we help them.

I would like to acknowledge a former member of the house, a man whom I have great respect for, who came out in I think it was the last Parliament and talked about his issues with gambling, and for one second everyone in this house just went silent. Here was a man owning up to something that he obviously had great guilt about, that he regretted, but he talked about the addiction. There were several people in this house that maybe had not gambled before, maybe had not come from a culture of gambling, and it was a bit of a surprise for some people to see that it does not matter what wage you are on, it does not matter where you live. Much like family violence or mental illness, addiction is something that gets us everywhere, and there would be people in this house, the statistics tell us, who have family members or who themselves will battle addiction, whether it be alcohol and other drugs or whether it be gambling.

But for now, this is a bill – like many progressive, commonsense bills that have been brought to this house by the former Andrews Labor government and now Allan Labor government – that just makes total sense to me. If there is one thing that is driving poverty and disadvantage in areas sometimes, it is gambling, and we have to have a look at those stats. We have heard some of the stats quoting billions of dollars coming out of local government areas in Victoria, which really is money down the drain. I am yet to hear one person in my electorate say ‘I went to the pokies, and I have now got a billion-dollar house in Sorrento and I spend my time on the Amalfi Coast each year.’ These people are battling.

To sum up, I will say that as a firey I was part of a punting club. It was crap. I put in a couple of hundred dollars, and it was just a bit of fun. We had an interest in a horse. I just did not get much out of it. I saw the fun. I saw the camaraderie in having a couple of beers and stuff like that, but that was actually more it for me. It was not so much about the horse. I can go to a horserace now or greyhounds or whatever when there is an event and never think about betting, but I know that there are people out there for whom it is so tough. Every time they walk past the pub they are having an internal battle about an issue that could make or break them – make or break their family. And like I said, we have seen that play itself out in this house with the story that we were told by a former member of this house, which I think brought almost everybody to tears. With that, this is a very important bill and I certainly commend it to the house.

Emma VULIN (Pakenham) (12:02): I rise to speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. This bill is about preventing gambling-related harm in the Victorian community. These reforms are necessary to protect my community and communities across our state. The bill also continues this government’s work of implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. Through this bill, amendments will be made to the Casino Control Act 1991, the Casino (Management Agreement) Act 1993 and the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.

One of the methods of preventing gambling harm is ensuring those playing electronic gaming machines have a break in play. In improving the protections for Victorians, this bill will ensure that all electronic gaming venues outside the casino are closed between the hours of 4 am and 10 am. There will be no more staging of closing hours, providing people with a break in play. This means players then cannot be tempted to move on to another venue to continue gambling. Some other speakers on this bill may say 4 am to 10 am is not enough, but we must allow for the fact that shiftworkers also may want the opportunity to stop at a pub or a club on the way home for a short time on occasion.

In my electorate of Pakenham, the pubs and clubs are the only entertainment venues. The nightclubs and bars which open beyond midnight are further away. Most are in the city, a long, long way. It is reasonable that these venues remain open as entertainment and gathering spaces in the local community so people can gather and socialise closer to home. Some venues in my electorate currently do not stay open through to 4 am, but in my electorate currently players can move to different venues from time to time to extend the amount of time they can play. I welcome this amendment, which will increase the downtime for electronic gaming machines across the electorate.

The Pakenham and Officer communities have lost $30.3 million playing on electronic gaming machines across four venues in my electorate in the 2022–23 financial year. That is a lot of money, and that is only a proportion of the millions of dollars which goes into these machines. This is particularly concerning in a growing community like mine, where many of my constituents are not yet old enough to gamble. Making this change to the hours of operation, and others proposed under this bill right now, is very important for my young and growing electorate. An estimated 333,000 Victorians experience harm because of gambling each and every year, costing Victoria about $7 billion annually and leading to significant financial distress, mental health concerns and relationship issues. It is therefore vital that electronic gambling has sensible controls to prevent harm. Gambling researchers say these measures will help. We must also ensure that pubs and clubs with electronic gaming machines continue their commitment to returning some of these losses to the local community through the local community grants program and sponsorships. The clubs are required to outline this contribution in their annual statements. I am aware that local community groups and sporting clubs in my electorate are assisted through this return.

Another thing that we are looking at is precommitment, and it is one way to reduce harm: those gambling deciding before they commence how much of their hard-earned dollars they are prepared to commit to their play. It is a sound harm minimisation option. This is why this government is moving towards statewide precommitment and carded play. This puts the power in the hands of the patrons and acts as an important safeguard to prevent people spending outside their limits. It also prevents money laundering.

This bill also paves the way for a reduction in load-up limits on gaming machines from $1000 to $100 and an increase in spin rates to slow the rate of play on new gaming machines, reducing the speed at which money can be lost or laundered. Significant slowing of new machines by more than 40 per cent to 3 seconds per game and a 900 per cent reduction in how much money can be put into machines at any one time are key parts of our comprehensive package of gambling reforms.

I have mentioned before in this place that as a young person more than 20 years ago I worked at the casino. As an employee at Melbourne’s Crown Casino I obtained a fair wage and was treated well as an employee, despite the gruelling graveyard shifts. But I also saw the realities of gambling addiction. At the casino I saw many people again and again returning to the pokies and the tables. I even knew many of them by name. Despite the times of fun and entertainment at this location, there were also many who became addicted.

From December 2023 anyone who plays a gaming machine at the casino will be required to track their play using the precommitment system YourPlay. This breaks the thinking for the player, as they need to decide, when their commitment runs out, if they want to spend more. I think that is a really good initiative. This is a worthwhile harm minimisation strategy which will also assist to limit money laundering. The Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, led by Ray Finkelstein AO KC, found that there were significant failures by the casino and the operator to address money laundering and other financial crimes. As part of addressing the 33 recommendations of the commission, amendments were passed last year restricting the payment of cash winnings to a maximum of $1000 in 24 hours. This bill amends the Casino Control Act 1991 to allow the payment of winnings provision to commence following the introduction of mandatory carded play on all games at the casino, including table games. This will give the casino time to implement the technology to track cash access to the whole gaming floor. It is world-first technology and needed to be developed for this purpose. This bill also ensures the casino’s ongoing operation as an entertainment venue. It ensures that the casino can keep operating if the current or future casino licence is cancelled, suspended or surrendered.

I also want to talk about sports wagering. Every weekend and every weekday, for that matter, community sport is being played in and around my electorate – footy, cricket, netball, soccer, rugby, baseball, softball, swimming, floorball and athletics, to name a few – and this is actually a good opportunity to give a shout-out to all the hardworking volunteers that provide so much to our local sporting clubs and provide so much to our community. Local sport is being played by minors and amateurs playing to excel, keep fit or just have fun and be part of the community. Revelations earlier this year that wagering was occurring from outside the state on local community sporting matches in Victoria were alarming. Most of the wagering service providers that provide the option to bet on these events inside Victoria are licensed outside of the state.

This is not something that is in the interests of junior and amateur sport. This is clearly out of step with community expectations. No-one wants a sporting event their child is participating in to have bets placed on it. Children should not be a source of profit for gambling companies. With amateur sport, likewise – no-one wants a local footy premiership potentially influenced by betting outcomes. This is a serious integrity risk. This bill will extend contingency offences to interstate gaming providers, and what this means is that it will allow the minister to respond to betting contingencies that are not in the public interest even if they are offered outside our state. This change will ensure betting practices that are not in line with our community expectations cannot be offered to Victorians by giving the minister the power to respond to emerging inappropriate practices in the wagering industry.

In conclusion, this government is committed to addressing gambling harm – something that I am really proud of. I am really proud to be part of a government that is addressing this. We will continue to work with harm-reduction stakeholders, people with lived experiences and industry to implement our reforms. We know that the community overwhelmingly supports these measures, and I commend this bill to the house.

Jordan CRUGNALE (Bass) (12:11): I too rise to speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, which seeks to deliver the most significant package of gambling reforms in our country to improve the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. These reforms will improve the protection afforded to all Victorians that gamble, with a specific focus on helping those who experience harm. These reforms are sensible, proportionate and necessary to prevent and reduce harm from gambling in our community.

Many of us know that the harm is not exclusive to just the individual; the harm extends to their families, friends and loved ones. As has been stated in the chamber already, around 330,000 Victorians experience harm because of gambling each year. Putting aside the emotional toll, it costs Victoria an estimated $7 billion each and every year, which leads to of course significant financial distress, relationship issues and mental ill health, just to name a few. We have heard from an array of speakers in this chamber, and those on this side are delving into lived experience, local impacts in their respective communities and how it shatters and breaks, controls and takes over any rational and consequential thought, which just walks right on out. Mandatory closure, slow spin rates, clarifying win payments, managing downtime, mandatory carded play and precommitments, extending contingency offences to interstate gaming providers and strengthening casino management provisions are just a swathe of headers with detail that this bill speaks to and that this bill addresses, illustrating its reforms.

In the Cardinia council and also in Casey and Bass Coast, which are serviced in my electorate, approximately $420,000 is spent on pokies per day. That is $153,642,889 per year. Casey has the second-highest pokies expenditure in Victoria. In February this year the Age reported that Casey council recorded the second-highest losses in the state, as I just mentioned, and were pressing for tough reforms to help deal with problem gambling and money laundering. The article, which was written earlier this year, went on to say almost $100 million had been lost in the municipality in the seven months before January 2023 alone. One of the administrators Noelene Duff said the council had signed a joint letter to the then Premier Daniel Andrews along with six other municipalities – Hume, Monash, Whittlesea, Darebin, Dandenong and Wyndham – urging the government to announce a suite of reforms. In those reforms it included the request for the introduction of mandatory cashless precommitment cards. My electorate also takes in Cardinia shire, which in that same seven-month period lost just under $21 million. I think, from my colleague the member for Pakenham, it was –

Emma Vulin: It was high.

Jordan CRUGNALE: Yes, it is high. So that was just over seven months, and Bass Coast was around $11.6 million. When we look at the populations of these council areas, these losses are high and very disproportionate.

This bill will require mandatory precommitment limits and carded play for all electronic gaming machines in Victoria, putting the power back into the hands of patrons while also ensuring that money is tracked, stopping money laundering through our gaming venues. We also have regional caps in a lot of our municipalities, limits to accessing gambling in Victoria. It is one of a number of harm minimisation strategies initiated by the Bracks government back in 1999 to address problem gambling, and Casey is one of eight partially capped regions in Victoria.

When we think about how gambling harm affects people, we have the individual – you have got your mental health issues, including stress, depression, anxiety and suicide, job loss, financial hardship, loss of social supports and community connections – and as I mentioned earlier, there is that ripple effect as well. With family and friends there is neglect, domestic violence, relationship breakdown, stigma and social isolation. Then it also goes into workplaces, clubs and groups, with absenteeism, job loss, poor performance, and then to the community, with reduced resources available, increased reliance on welfare supports and community disempowerment. Then it goes that step further as a societal issue as well, with less employment created by spending in the gaming industry and what have you. There is also a correlation between problem gambling and smoking, risky drinking, drug use, mental illness et cetera, so by reducing problem gambling in some of the suites that I mentioned earlier, it is very likely to improve community health generally.

As many were also discussing in the chamber here, when we look at the mandatory closure period from 4 am to 10 am, we know a lot of the gaming venues stagger the times that they are closed so that people can move around in their immediate areas to have that 24-hour access. With respect to the member for Brunswick as well, this is not a small change, as approximately 400 venues, or 85 per cent of all operating venues, have nominated opening hours within the 4 am to 10 am window.

The other thing I want to talk about and that my learned colleague the member for Pakenham delved into as well is around extending contingency offences to interstate gaming providers and how it is that we are able to put bets on kids that are playing sport under 18 – players as young as 15 years of age – which is really out of step with community expectations. I mean, the fact that we can bet on election results is kind of crazy, and who will be the next Pope, but children should not be a source of profit for gambling companies. Likewise, we also know that bets are being offered on low-tier amateur sport, which is not only harmful but also presents a serious integrity risk, and most of these wagering service providers are licensed outside of Victoria, with many of these events also occurring outside of Victoria. This legislative change will ensure betting practices that are not in line with community expectations cannot be offered to Victorians. Also clarifying the payment of winning provisions, amendments passed last year restrict the payment of cash winnings to a maximum of $1000 in a 24-hour period.

It is Gambling Harm Awareness Week. I know when I was on council many years ago, we had a cap in the Bass Coast shire. I think in my first year as councillor I was trying to get those caps brought down, but it was a very difficult process and it never actually happened. My council was one of the first signatories to the alliance as well, so we were very active in our local community to reduce gambling harm. It is Gambling Harm Awareness Week, so I just want to say that if there is anyone or someone you know that is struggling, reach out and talk to someone – anyone. Support is there. You are so much more than your addiction. In the words of Tim Freedman and the Whitlams, who talked about the impact of pokies – they had a bit of a famous song; I do not know if it has been spoken about in the chamber yet –

Emma Vulin: Sing it.

Jordan CRUGNALE: No, I am not going to sing it. I would need a prop, and we are not allowed props. It goes:

And I wish I, wish I knew the right words

To make you feel better, walk out of this place

And defeat them in your secret battle

Show them you can be your own man again

We owe it to our community, to our children, to do better. This bill does not take away people’s rights or choices or people’s ability to have a bit of fun. It does, however, introduce sensible, responsible reform which will assist those who struggle with problem gambling to have more support and gentle boundaries in tackling what could be the greatest struggle of their lives. I commend the bill to the house.

Lauren KATHAGE (Yan Yean) (12:21): I rise to speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. This bill before us is the first step in what is a significant program of gambling reform that the Allan government will be introducing in our state. Gambling, in a way, some parts of gambling, is something that is new to our state, especially in terms of the pokies, which we are talking about today. I learned recently from my mother that my grandmother was one of the ones who would hop on a bus and go and have a flutter, so there you go. Today in pubs and clubs in every suburb or every area of our state we see poker machines, and we know that they have become a very normalised part of our culture. Recently I had dinner at a local venue with my daughter and she saw a room with flashing lights. She asked me about what was going on in there. I found it quite hard to find the words to explain to a six-year-old, but she really had the words because what she said to me was: ‘It doesn’t look like they are having fun in there.’ She hit the nail on the head with that one.

But people are in those rooms, and they are spending a lot of money. We know that in the City of Whittlesea, which takes up most of my electorate, $98 million was spent on pokies last year. In my electorate, at the largest gaming venue, the local community lost $13.5 million – in one venue alone in my area. I can understand the attraction of restaurants with playgrounds inside them – by God, I am at the stage of life where that is my favourite type of restaurant – but the pokies, in my humble opinion, are not fun. In fact for a lot of people in Victoria they cause harm. We know that 330,000 Victorians experience harm from gambling, but it is not just the people who gamble – it is the people connected to them that experience harm as well. Statistics tell us that that is another 300,000 and some say up to a million altogether in Victoria that experience harm from gambling each year.

But what do we mean when we talk about gambling harm? There are different ways that we can be harmed by gambling. We talk about the difference between people who gamble and people who do not. We know that of the people who experience problem gambling, 39 per cent of them are in a state of high distress compared to 5 per cent of Victoria’s general population. That is a pretty clear sign that something is not going right there. Relationship harm is another type of harm caused by gambling. We heard yesterday from the member for Eureka, whose husband did not experience a eureka moment but had a sad moment in front of an ATM in the middle of the night. It broke my heart to hear the experience of her family with gambling.

It can be worse than that. For women who present at emergency departments as a result of family violence where their husband is a problem gambler – and I will come back to that phrase ‘problem gambler’ – the majority of them are there following their partner’s gambling loss. The majority of women in emergency departments experiencing family violence with a partner who gambles are there following a partner’s loss. This is how it impacts on people.

It also creates health harms, and we know that one-fifth of gambling harm in Victoria is health related; this can include stress, reduced sleep, depression and anxiety disorders. People with a gambling addiction are more likely to be diagnosed with depression – 41 per cent compared to moderate risk gamblers at 24 per cent – and we do not necessarily know which is the chicken and which is the egg. I am sure it is very complex, but it shows us that there is real harm occurring.

Financial harm also results from gambling. We can have reduced spending on recreational activities – that is a lower level of harm – but when it starts to be children’s sports uniforms or indeed food, we know that the harm is severe. People accumulate debt. They sell items in their homes. Unfortunately sometimes it leads to criminal activity. The criminal activity can be finance related, such as stealing and fraud, but it can also relate to child neglect. We have all heard stories of children left in cars while their parents were inside.

In terms of that criminal activity, we heard from the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association in our recent gambling inquiry that they felt that all the Vietnamese–Australian women in jail were there because of gambling – because they had accumulated gambling debts that they had to pay off through criminal activity related to drugs and prostitution. They were heartbroken by that, and they are a great organisation that is doing great work to support women who have experienced that harm.

I mistakenly used the phrase ‘problem gambler’ before, and I want to take it back, because this is what we do, unfortunately. We locate the problem in the individual rather than in the product. That is why a public health approach to gambling is really important. We know that gambling is associated – as we heard from the member for Bass – with high levels of drinking and chain-smoking. It is because it is an addictive process, and a public health approach to gambling recognises that limiting exposure to harmful substances is the correct approach when you are dealing with something like this. By talking about ‘problem gamblers’ we are taking the problem and pointing the blame at the person who is exposed to the harmful product. I am glad to say that the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission in Victoria has very strongly stated recently and unequivocally that gambling causes harm and that gambling operators have a duty of care to people to prevent harm from occurring. I absolutely support that public health approach to gambling. The reform that we are talking about today is one way to reduce the impact of a harmful product on people – by reducing the hours, standardising closing hours from 4 am to 10 am at every Victorian pub and club to reduce that risk.

Some of the other measures that we have committed to include increasing the minimum spin rate to 3 seconds, up from 2.1. We are talking about split seconds. However, I recently had the opportunity to observe people on pokies. I saw a woman on her lunch break. She was wearing her uniform, sitting at a pokie machine with a fistful of $50 notes and tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap – just pressing a button over and over and over again and not looking at the screen, not seeing what the result of each tap was or considering whether she wanted to put in more and not looking like she was having fun. But on her lunch break there she was: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. If we can reduce the rate at which machines take money from people, we can also limit and reduce the harm from what is a harmful product.

I am so proud that this government is taking real steps to introduce reform to reduce gambling harm in Victoria. I thank the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation for her efforts and her strong advocacy in this space, and I commend the bill to the house.

Paul HAMER (Box Hill) (12:31): I too rise to speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. I also want to start by thanking the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation for bringing this important amendment to the house. I want to thank all of the speakers who have made a contribution today and just reflect on some of the really powerful speeches that have been made, including the immediate previous speaker, the member for Yan Yean. When the member for Yan Yean was talking about the lighting up of the poker machines and how it provides that sort of attraction, and talking about her own child’s experience, it also made me reflect that in many of these venues there is a playground that is designed as a safe space for children while parents go and gamble, which is never a safe place for the adults. It is something that we need to be mindful of – creating environments that become attractive family places where children might be left for many hours because there are not the other signals and signs that you can monitor time by.

I also want to reflect on and pay tribute to the member for Eureka, who has many times spoken in this place about her own personal experience and brush with gambling addiction, how hard that is to break and what an impact that has on the entire family. Also, the member for Frankston referred to a contribution that was made in the last term of Parliament by a former member. As he correctly said, that was a very powerful and moving contribution on that day. I remember I was in the chamber listening to him and it did make me reflect on some of the people that I knew – who perhaps did not necessarily have an addiction – and just going and reaching out to them and making sure that there was help available to them if they needed assistance. I really admire the courage of that member to come out and lay bare all of the issues that he had faced up to that time. All of these experiences really demonstrate how important this bill is that we are debating today.

The bill does seek to minimise gambling-related harm by imposing mandatory closure periods on gaming venues outside of the casino and strengthening the statutory management provisions to ensure the continuation of operations in the event that the casino licence is cancelled as well as clarifying administrative issues around the payment of winnings and providing a framework for addressing technical failures in the precommitment system. In Victoria more than $66 billion has been lost through poker machines over the last 30 years, and the addictive nature of electronic gaming machines is attributed to their design, which includes features such as fast-paced gameplay, frequent rewards and the element of chance. As we have heard repeatedly, gambling addiction can have serious social and financial consequences for individuals and their families, and this is why this bill is so important.

One of the main initiatives in these reforms is the introduction of a mandatory precommitment system, and it allows gamblers to set limits on their gambling expenditure before they start playing. It will help patrons assess how much they are willing to lose before they start playing, and the intention is that this measure will be in place for the casino’s electronic gaming machines before the end of the year. This measure will empower individuals to make informed decisions about their gambling habits and mitigate the risks associated with excessive gambling.

I will probably make a couple of references to this in my contribution, as did the member for Yan Yean. We were both on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) for its inquiry into the Victorian Auditor-General’s reports number 99 and number 213 in relation to gambling harm, and as part of that inquiry we did visit a gaming venue. It is quite unusual for me to be visiting a gaming venue – I am not really a gambler at all – but it did strike me that in a lot of these venues the signs of where you can get help are often not that visible. Particularly around the machines, if you have been playing for a long time, you are not really exposed to it. The venues are compliant with the legislation – they do have those signs there – but you almost need to seek out those signs to be able to have that message transferred to you. I think it is important that those other regulatory actions are taken that require an individual to make those initial precommitments.

Another really important element of the legislation, which has been talked about at length through the contributions, is the requirement of pubs and clubs to shut down their gaming machines between 4 am and 10 am. This has come in response to venues where hours have been extended or overlapped so that gamblers with addiction might move from one venue to another, and having a standard set of hours across the state will certainly help limit that. I cannot see any good that is coming of having a gaming venue open at 4 and 5 in the morning, and just putting in that break and stopping that repetitive behaviour will help individuals with excessive gambling and give them that time out where they are able to reflect.

We are also very aware as a government of the addictive features and traits of the machines. As the member for Yan Yean was saying, it is the lights, the noise and the repetitive action that can bring you in and suck you in. That is why under this bill we will be requiring all new gaming machines to have a minimum spin rate of 3 seconds per game, which will lower the pace of the gaming and restrict the amount that can be lost. All of the requirements that are put in this bill do focus on preventing gambling harm and ensuring that people are receiving the correct gambling support that they need. There are additional measures, such as the limitation of individual transactions and total daily transactions on ATMs within gaming venues, and all of them are within the context of trying to minimise harm.

In the last minute or so that I have remaining, I just also wanted to quickly return to the PAEC inquiry that I referred to earlier. There were a number of public hearings which took place in which specifically those attending the hearing were asked about the proposed changes to the legislation, which had been flagged by the minister about a month earlier, and there was very broad agreement in terms of these being important, critical measures that would help address some of the worst issues of gambling harm. We also were able to have a fantastic hearing with the youth round table, and they also supported it. I fully commend the bill to the house.

Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Ambulance Services) (12:41): I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

Ordered that debate be adjourned until later this day.