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Poker Machine (Reduced Losses—Interim Measures) Bill 2009

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(Circulated by authority of Senator N Xenophon)



















1.     Background

The purpose of this Bill is to put in place interim measures to regulate the rate of poker machine losses by limiting the maximum bet on any spin and adjusting spin rates and volatility of poker machines.


It follows the Productivity Commission's draft report into Gambling, released in October 2009, which concluded that, given the current spin rate of machines, it was possible for poker machine players to lose $1,200 an hour.


Among the Productivity Commission's key recommendations, was that bets be limited to a maximum of $1 per spin with a maximum loss per hour of $120, which this Bill sets in place.


These measures are interim measures to protect problem gamblers until the Productivity Commission publishes its final report in early 2010, which will likely result in a widespread overhaul of poker machine regulation.


  1. Short Title

This clause is a formal provision and specifies the short title of Bill, once enacted, as the Poker Machine (Reduced Losses - Interim Measures) Act 2009 .


  1. Commencement

This clause provides for the commencement of the Act at the end of 28 days after the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.


  1. Object of the Act

This clause states that the object of the Act is to put in place interim measures to regulate the rate of poker machine losses by restricting the practical operation of poker machines.


  1. Application of Act

Subclause 4(1) allows for the Act to extend to Norfolk Island, the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island.


Subclause (2) enables the Act to apply to acts, omissions, matters and things in the Australian jurisdiction.


  1. Relationship with State and Territory Law

This clause specifies that this Act is not intended to exclude or limit the concurrent operation of any law of a State or Territory, unless the contrary intention appears.


  1. Definitions

This clause sets out the definitions of terms within this Act. It defines that 'corporation' means a corporation to which paragraph 51(xx) of the Constitution applies; and states that 'poker machine' includes gaming machine or any machine licensed or required to be licensed for use in a state or territory as a poker machine or gaming machine and otherwise has its ordinary meaning.


  1. Part 2 - Restrictions on the practical operation of poker machines

This section sets out dealings with and the practical operations of poker machines to ensure compliance with the intent of the Bill to reduce losses for problem gamblers.


Clause 8 sets out the details by which corporations must deal with poker machines such that they comply with clause (9) of the Bill, which requires that machines be modified to reduce losses.


Subclause 8(1), paragraph (1) provides that a corporation must not (a) manufacture a poker machine; or (b) acquire, install, own, operate or lease a poker machine; or (c) sell or offer a machine for sale for use in Australia as a poker machine; or (d) otherwise exercise any property right over or in connection with a poker machine or the revenue from a poker machine, unless the machine complies with each requirement as specified in clause (9).


Subclause 8(2) sets out that a person must not (a) aid, abet, counsel or procure a contravention of subsection (1); or (b) induce, whether by threats or promises or otherwise, a contravention of subsection (1); or (c) be in any way, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in, or party to, a contravention of subsection (1); or conspire with others to effect a contravention of subsection (1).


Under subclause 8(3) of the Bill, breaches of subclauses (1) and (2) are civil penalty provisions, which are subject to including pecuniary penalties.


Clause (9) sets out how poker machines must be configured to reduce maximum losses.


Subclause (1) sets out that the machine must not accept banknotes with a denomination greater than $20. Subclause (2) provides that the machine must not be capable of accepting additional credits from a player if the machine stands in credit to the player to the value of $20 or more.


Subclause (3) states that the machine must not be capable of allowing a maximum bet in excess of $1 per spin and under subclause (4) of the Bill, the machine must not be capable of allowing a maximum loss in excess of $120 in any single hour of operation.


  1. Part 3 - Civil Penalties

Clause (10) outlines pecuniary penalties for contravention of civil penalty provisions.


Subclause (1) provides that if the Federal Court is satisfied that a person has contravened a civil penalty provision, the Court may order the person to pay to the Commonwealth such pecuniary penalty, in respect of each contravention, as the Court determines to be appropriate.


Subclause (2) sets out that, in determining the pecuniary penalty, the Court must have regard to all relevant matters, including (a) the nature, extent and circumstances of the contravention; (b) the nature and extent of any loss or damage suffered as a result of the contravention; and (c) whether the person has previously been found by the Court in proceedings under this Act to have engaged in any similar conduct.


Under subclause (3), the Court in assessing the extent of any loss or damage may consider the harm that is caused to vulnerable people, to their families and to Australian society by the use of expensive, addictive poker machines.


Subclause (4) determines that the pecuniary penalty payable under clause (1) is not to exceed 2000 penalty units for each contravention, with penalty units to have the meaning as given by section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 .


Subclause (5) provides that it is open to the Court to find that a failure to comply with more than one provision in clause (9) constitutes more than one contravention of a civil penalty provision, even if that contravention relates to the same conduct, and subclause (6) states that it is open to the Court to find that a person who contravenes a civil penalty provision commits a separate contravention of that provision in respect of each day during which the contravention continues.


  1. Part 11 - Contravening a civil penalty provision is not an offence

This clause states that a contravention of a civil penalty provision is not an offence.



  1. Part 12 - Recovery of a pecuniary penalty

This clause provides that if the Federal Court orders a person to pay a pecuniary penalty, that (a) the penalty is payable to the Commonwealth; and (b) the Commonwealth may enforce the order as if it were a judgment of the Court.


  1. Part 4—Miscellaneous

Clause 13 determines regulation under the Act, whereby the Governor General may make regulations prescribing matters which are (a) required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed; or (b) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.