Statutes Amendment (Gambling Measures) Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading.(Continued from 26 March 2015.)

Second reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:40 :18 ): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Gambling Measures) Bill. This has been described by the government as a bill to fine tune the provisions in the Gaming Machines Act 1992 and the Independent Gambling Authority Act 1995, the Lottery and Gaming Act 1936 and the Problem Gambling (Family Protection Orders) Act 2004. This bill makes it an offence under the Gaming Machines Act for a person to purchase or enter into a contract or agreement to purchase a gaming machine, unless licensed. I understand that this is because a South Australian resident attempted to have such a machine in his man cave, and there was some discrepancy around at which point he was acting illegally. So certainly tightening up those provisions has been observed to be necessary.

The bill also removes the amendment prohibiting EFTPOS facilities in gaming areas in hotels and clubs. I note the concern that gamblers leaving a venue to withdraw cash means that it is harder for trained staff on site to identify problem gamblers, and that has been the advice of the government. I understand the Hon. John Darley may have amendments around that, and at this stage the Greens are still consulting on that particular measure.

It also provides the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner with the power to seek input from the Commissioner of Police about any gaming manager or gaming employee. It removes the requirement that the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner approve the layout of gaming machines in the gaming area, and this is certainly supported by the Greens and seen as a cutting of red tape measure. It also defines the circumstances in which it would be unlawful for a player to engage in a game of poker in a public place. I note that this definition is quite carefully defined, and that tournament poker would not be affected by this particular provision.

It amends the Lottery and Gaming Act to increase the modern powers of delegation to recognise that that is to the minister. It amends the Independent Gambling Authority Act to provide greater clarity in administrative arrangements, including a new staff provision clarifying that the staff of the IGA are Public Service employees, assigned by the relevant chief executive, and certainly the Greens welcome that particular pleasure. It also extends the IGA's delegation-making powers and finetunes the barring framework by extending the confidentiality obligations.

The Greens support the finetuning of the barring framework, and my contribution today will focus on some areas where not only does the barring framework need finetuning, but I think it needs significant overhaul. I have some cases that have been presented to me by various groups, in particular Communities against pokies and Pokies Anonymous. In my conversations with the AHA they have indicated many similar cases of what I have coined 'barring fail'; cases where the IGA barring system has failed the South Australian community and, in particular, vulnerable people who have a problem with gambling.

I have amended many of the names of these individuals to protect their privacy, but I wish to share with the council some of these cases, which I think go a long way to calling for further overhaul of the barring regime in this state. The first case study I am provided with is from David. David says he has had a pokies addiction since 1999, and he writes to my office:

I have had a pokies addiction since 1999. This addiction has impoverished me in every way. It has caused severe mental health problems ultimately driving me to the brink of suicide.

He goes on to say that, with the help of Pokies Anonymous, he stopped playing, but recently he started playing again, knowing that his 'self-destructive addiction', as he termed it, was again taking over and destroying his life. He says he wrote up a list of about 20 venues that he needed to exclude himself from, and he began the self-barring process. He continues:

I set about making appointments with the gaming manager at each venue. I made appointments with the gaming managers at the first two venues on my list. The third venue was the Hampstead Hotel. When I ran g this venue I spoke with a barman because the gaming manager wasn't there. He said he thought I could self - exclude statewide [ and ]… gave me a number to call. This turned out to be the gambling helpline … They gave me another number to call. This turned out to be the Australian Hotel ier s Association (AHA). The woman I spoke to explained that they didn't manage self - barring and suggested that I phone the IGA.

I ran g the IGA and made an appointment. The earliest appointment was eight days later at 11.30am on a Friday and I took this. I was told that most people come in with a list of up to 15 venues that they wish to be explicitly barred from.

He says that, at that appointment, he was taken into a room and told that the interview would be videorecorded. He writes:

the interviewer motioned towards a set of shelves behind me. I a m uncertain as to whether the interview was recorded or not. I thought that videoing the interview was unnecessary and intimidating.

He continues:

I suspect the [ intimidating ] nature of videoing the interview would put many people off from being honest …

It was explained to me that my request for self - barring would … be considered , [ and ] that approval was required by the IGA before they would approve my request .. .

Finally I was told that I would be sent a letter confirming my self - exclusion and that the letter would be sent in an envelope with Independent Gambling Authority ' clearly displayed on the envelope ' .

It was also explained that self - barring was far from perfect. I was told that because of the enormous numbers of people being self - excluded that the venues had great difficulty in identifying people who have self - excluded ; the sheer numbers overwhelmed their ability to effectively police self - exclusion.

Mary Briggs, whose name has also been changed, writes:

Mary's aunty rang the IGA to see if she was still barred from hotels from a few years ago. She stated to the lady on the phone her inquiry and gave her name. The lady on the phone indicated that they didn't have a Cheryl Briggs on the phone, but they did have a Mary Briggs…

Mary's aunty had no idea that she had a gambling problem, but now her and her whole family know thanks to the IGA.

I heard many, many stories like these, including some that I have recently highlighted in this council in recent months—stories from people who have been treated with contempt when they have called the IGA to inquire about barring, and stories where people have called up and been promised a call back and this has not happened.

There have also been stories from people who have specifically asked for a plain envelope to be sent to their home in response to their barring application, and instead have had an envelope emblazoned with the IGA logo arrive at their home for the family to see. Therefore, of course, I note it is particularly pleasing to see the government's amendments to improve the IGA's confidentiality obligations.

However, there is clearly plenty of room for further improvement when it comes to the IGA's procedures. Ultimately, the barring system must serve those who are seeking to use it. It should not be for the IGA head to act like a judge in this way. If any individual thinks they have a gambling problem and asks for help, that help should be given and given promptly.

Having met with the AHA, I understand from discussions with them that their barring system for alcohol works much more effectively. Perhaps that could be seen as a guide. I encourage the IGA to engage in dialogue with those managing this system to see if they can perhaps simplify what I am told by those who try to use it, and indeed those who try to use it and give up, is a very complex barring system at present.

It is a shame to hear at this moment in time that our problem gambling agencies are also reluctant to direct problem gamblers to the IGA. Communities against pokies have certainly been one of those groups who are very loath to refer people, given the treatment that they have encountered when they have made contact with that organisation.

I also question why we cannot have a statewide barring option for those who wish to self-bar or to be barred. A statewide solution would seem logical. I also touch on other situations where people have asked to be barred or asked not to be told which venues they have been barred from, but then been sent literature telling them the names of the venues that they have been barred from. This totally defeats the purpose of trying to get around that information not being known to them so that they would assume that they are barred from all venues.

The barring system is currently a failure and it needs to be fixed. I would hope that this is a step in the right direction and I certainly applaud the government's main intent with this bill and most of the key recommendations. I note also that the Hon. John Darley has a raft of amendments, including the ability for those holding gaming machine entitlements of 20 or less in a venue to be able to sell those to the government; also $1 bets, which of course the Greens have long held as a policy and we will fully support those particular amendments. As I say, we have not yet landed on a position with regard to the EFTPOS machines, but we look forward to this debate and to seeing further reform in this sector to support those who have a problem with gambling.

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