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‘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”, is 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 2% 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 continue to grow in Australia, the Federal Government is left with no option but to step in.”
Tim Costello, who wrote the foreword, 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.”
Gambling Governance and Re-Regulation: An Action Plan for Reform
The key recommendations
1. The Commonwealth government needs to take a stronger leadership role on gambling reform.
2. Funding should be by:
(i) A new Commonwealth tax of 2 per cent of net gambling revenue on the grounds that the industry has been under-taxed. This would net $378 million annually.
(ii) Funding derived from establishment of a new National Australian Lotteries Commission.
3. The Commonwealth initiate changes to the Grants Commission formula adding incentives for State governments to reduce their reliance on gambling taxes or suffer reductions in Commonwealth grants.
4. Ramping-up national consumer protection laws to implement the Productivity Commission 2008 recommendations for a new national generic consumer law.
5. The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) to implement a new national framework specifically directed to strengthening consumer protection in ‘dangerous consumptions’ products (alcohol, tobacco, gambling).
6. Instituting national machine product, industry and venue standards which will protect consumers by applying the equivalent of seat belts and airbags to gaming machines and gaming environments.
7. Using corporations law to re-regulate gambling services provider’s license to operate and duty of care to both customers (host responsibility) and employees (duty of care to employees wellbeing and safety).
8. Maintain ban on Interactive Gambling and improve player safety.
9. The Commonwealth to lead on a national player tracking system (modelled on that used in Nova Scotia, Canada) using the latest research in detection of abnormal or risky playing patterns.
10. Institute new national anti-fraud and anti-money laundering provisions and set up an Independent National Research and Probity Commission.