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Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012 [2013]

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2010-2011-2012

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senators R Di Natale,

J Madigan and N Xenophon)

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012

 

OUTLINE

 

The purpose of this Bill is to put in place measures to regulate the operation of poker machines in Australia, in particular to limit the rate of loss to the users of such machines.

 

The Productivity Commission, in its 2010 report on Gambling, identified the harms of problem gambling to society and identified poker machines as the principle cause of such harm. It identified the rate of loss - the amount of money a gambler may lose in an hour’s use of such a machine - as a significant factor in the harm caused. It noted that on many machines commonly found in local communities a player could potentially lose around $1,200 in a single hour, and recommended that limits to bet amounts of $1 per spin be considered to bring this rate of loss down to the order of $120 per hour. The report also demonstrated that problem gamblers are those most likely to play at rates above those consistent with $1 per spin.

 

This Bill implements this recommendation and provides for the regulation of other parameters of poker machine operation - jackpots, load-up limits and spin rates - in order to limit the amount of money that may be lost in a given time period through a poker machine and thereby limit the amount of money lost in particular by problem gamblers.

 

The Bill specifies the following timeline for the implementation of the specified restrictions on poker machine operation:

 

1 January 2013

Machines may not be sold unless they are capable of supporting the specified limits.

subclause 7(1)

1 January 2017

Machines may not be sold unless they operate only in accordance with the specified limits. In venues with more than 10 machines, all machines must be operated in accordance with the specified limits.

subclauses 7(2) and (3)

1 January 2019

Venues with 10 or fewer machines must only operate machines that are compliant.

subclause 7(4)

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

1.                   Clause 1 - Short Title

 

This is a formal provision specifying the short title.

 

2.                   Clause 2 - Commencement

 

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

 

3.                    Clause 3 - Object of the Act

 

This clause states that the object of the Act is to limit the harm poker machines cause to problem gamblers by limiting the rate of losses occurring during their operation.

 

4.                   Clause 4 - Application of Act

 

Clause 4 allows for the Act to extend to the external Territories.

 

5.                   Clause 5 - 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, to the extent that the law is capable of operating concurrently with this Act.

 

6.                    Clause 6 - Definitions

 

This clause sets out the definitions of terms within this Act. ‘Australia’ includes the external Territories. ‘Civil penalty provision’ has the meaning given in subclause 7(6). It defines ‘corporation’ as a corporation to which paragraph 51(xx) of the Constitution applies; and defines the terms applying to poker machines and their operation. It defines a poker machine as any machine licensed or required to be licensed for use in a state or territory as a poker machine or gaming machine. It defines game as the mode of play of a poker machine, a jackpot as the result of a game that pays the maximum payable winnings, and the spin rate as the interval between spins on a poker machine.

 

Part 2 - Restrictions on the practical operation of poker machines

 

7.                   Clause 7 - Dealing with poker machines

 

This clause sets out the restrictions on the sale and operation of poker machines that are in line with the intent of the Bill to reduce the rate of losses and thereby help problem gamblers.

 

Clause 7 details how corporations that deal with poker machines must comply with the requirements in clause 8 of the bill and the timelines under which they must comply.

 

Subclause 7(1) details that after 31 December 2012 a corporation must not sell or lease, or offer to sell or lease, a poker machine unless it is capable of complying with the requirements in clause 8, i.e. that it can be operated in such a mode that it complies, whether or not this is the default or only mode of operation.

 

Subclause 7(2) details that after 31 December 2016 a corporation must not sell or lease, or offer to sell or lease, a poker machine unless that machine complies with the requirements in clause 8.

 

Subclause 7(3) details that a licensed venue with more than 10 poker machines must not after 31 December 2016 acquire, install, own, operate or lease a poker machine unless the machine complies with the requirements of clause 8.

 

Subclause 7(4) provides that venues with 10 or fewer poker machines have until 31 December 2018 to ensure that their machines comply with the requirements of clause 8.

 

Subclause 7(5) sets out that a person must not (a) aid, abet, counsel or procure a contravention of subclause (1), (2), (3) or (4); or (b) induce, whether by threats or promises or otherwise, a contravention of subclause (1), (2), (3) or (4); or (c) be in any way, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in, or party to, a contravention of subclause (1), (2), (3) or (4); or (d) conspire with others to effect a contravention of subclause (1), (2), (3) or (4).

 

Under subclause (6) of the Bill, breaches of subclauses (1) to (5) are subject to civil penalty provisions, including pecuniary penalties.

 

8.                   Clause 8 - Regulation of parameters of practical operation of poker machines

 

Clause 8 of the Bill sets out the parameters around the operation of poker machines that the Bill seeks to regulate in order to reduce the rate of loss of such machines.

 

Subclause 8(1) specifies that the machine must not accept banknotes of a denomination greater than $20.

 

Subclause 8(2) specifies that the machine must not accept additional credits if the user already has $20 or more in credit, that is, that the “load-up” limit of the machine is $20.

 

Subclause 8(3) requires that the machine must be limited to a bet of $1 per spin, i.e. that regardless of the other parameters selected by the user or part of the machine’s operation (such as number of lines played and so forth) the total maximum wager may not exceed $1.

 

Subclause 8(4) requires that the machine have a jackpot of no more than $500. This means that regardless of how a machine may be linked to other machines, how long the user has been using the machine, or how much the user choses to wager, this subclause provides that the maximum payout from a win is limited to this amount.

 

9.                   Clause 9 - Variation of parameters of practical operation of poker machines

 

Clause 9 specifies that the parameters in clause 8, and additionally the spin rate of a poker machine, may be reduced through regulations.

 

Part 3 - Civil Penalties

 

10.               Clause 10 - Pecuniary penalties for contravention of civil penalty provisions

 

Clause 10 provides for pecuniary penalties for contravention of the civil penalty provisions in clause 7.

 

Subclause 10(1) provides that the Minister can apply to the Federal Court for an order for a pecuniary penalty within 6 years of a contravention.

 

Subclause 10(2) 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 10(3) 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 10(4), 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 10(5) determines that the pecuniary penalty payable under subclause (2) is not to exceed 2,000 penalty units for each contravention.

 

Subclause 10(6) provides that it is open to the Court to find that a failure to comply with more than one provision in clause 8 constitutes more than one contravention of a civil penalty provision, even if that contravention relates to the same conduct, and subclause 10(7) 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.

 

Subclause 10(8) limits the amount of pecuniary penalty if subclause 10(7) applies.

 

11.               Clause 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.

 

12.               Clause 12 - Recovery of a pecuniary penalty

 

This clause provides that if the Federal Court orders a person to pay a pecuniary penalty, (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.

 

Part 4 - Minimum uniform national standards and national monitoring network

 

13.               Clause 13 - Minimum uniform national standards and national monitoring network

 

This clause provides that the Minister must take all reasonable steps to implement uniform national standards for poker machines in relation to harm minimisation, with particular reference to maximum losses. In implementing these standards, the Minister must consult with COAG and the Ministerial Council on Gambling, and that this consultation must begin within 90 days of the Act receiving Royal Assent. These national standards must be in place and take effect from 1 January 2015.

 

This clause also provides for a national monitoring network for poker machines to be established.

 

Part 5—Miscellaneous

 

14.               Clause 14 - Regulations

 

Clause 14 provides that the Governor-General may make regulations prescribing matters which are (a) required or permitted by the Act to be prescribed; or (b) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the Act.



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

This bill regulates the parameters on electronic gaming machines (poker machines) sold and operated within Australia in order to reduce the rates of loss to users using the machines. It places restrictions on the maximum bet limits and other parameters on machines that may be legally sold and operated by a corporation in Australia and specifies a timeline for the implementation of the restrictions.

 

Human rights implications

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

Senator Richard Di Natale

Senator J Madigan

Senator N Xenophon