Commonwealth Government must move to control gambling regulation

30 April 2010

“The Commonwealth Government has no option but to take over the regulation of gambling in Australia,” says Deakin University’s Associate Professor Linda Hancock.

Associate Professor Hancock was speaking at the launch by Senator Nick Xenophon at Parliament House Canberra of a ground-breaking monograph co-written with Michael O’Neil from the South Australia Centre for Economic Studies.

The publication “Risky Business: Why the Commonwealth Government Needs To Take Over Gambling Regulation”, was jointly released by The Australia Institute and the Alfred Deakin Research Institute.

“In the decade following the 1999 Productivity Commission Report, gambling harms are a serious, escalating social and cultural problem for the Australian community,” Associate Professor Hancock said.

“Although States are responsible for gambling policy, they have not acted to curb gambling harms because they have an irreconcilable conflict of interest.”

The States and Territories are heavily dependent on gambling taxes (an Australian average of 10 per cent of state revenues) and they have shown little resolve to protect citizens from gambling-related harms. Despite so-called ‘harm minimisation’ measures by the states, gambling losses continue to rise.

“Only the Federal Government is in a position to act,” Associate Professor Hancock said.

“The monograph sets out a new vision for the Commonwealth Government to intervene in gambling policy governance and (re)regulation at a national level.

“For the first time, this Action Plan spells out a three-year revenue-neutral plan for the Commonwealth to fund states/territories on condition they decrease their reliance on gambling tax revenue.

“We make the case that compared to other ‘dangerous consumptions’ such as alcohol and tobacco, which also incur public costs, the gambling industry is currently both under-taxed and over-rewarded with government concessions.

“A new two per cent tax on the industry across all forms of gambling and revenue from a new National Lottery Commission would finance a National Gambling Fund to ease State’s dependency on gambling taxes.

“This entails using the Commonwealth’s corporations powers under Section 96 of the Constitution and Commonwealth Grants to reform the behaviour of reluctant states, proposing new product safety and consumer protection, new fraud detection via a national player tracking data base and a new independent National Gambling Research and Probity Commission.

“This is a major undertaking but with problem gambling continuing to grow in Australia, the Federal Government is left with no option but to step in.”

Commenting on the report, World Vision Australia CEO Reverend Tim Costello said: "We remain a nation without a gambling governance plan. This is why I commend the report by Linda Hancock and Mike O’Neil. It gives me hope that one day I can retire from this topic.”

News facts
  • Commonwealth Government should take over the regulation of gambling in Australia
  • States have not acted to curb gambling harms because they have an irreconcilable conflict of interest
  • Report sets out vision for Commonwealth Government intervention in gambling policy governance and (re)regulation at a national level

Media contact

Associate Professor Linda Hancock
Alfred Deakin Institute
Phone 0417 057 501

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30th April 2010