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Thursday, 4 September 2008
Page: 4503

Senator XENOPHON (9:45 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


The purpose of the ATMS and Cash Facilities in Licensed Venues Bill 2008 is to limit and reduce the installation of automatic teller machines and cash facilities in licensed venues.

The bill does not restrict access to funds for purposes other than the withdrawal of cash so any argument that removing ATMs from licensed venues will inconvenience patrons wanting to pay for their meals, drinks, accommodation and the like at licensed venues electronically is fatuous.

Rather, this bill addresses the problem highlighted in the report of the Productivity Commission and that commissioned by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission, by introducing measures which will minimise the harm caused to the most vulnerable gamblers who are disproportionately also the highest users of ATMs.

The Productivity Commission last reported on the issue of gambling in 1999. In its National Gambling Survey, the Productivity Commission found that problem gamblers were significantly more likely than non-problem players to withdraw money from an ATM at a venue whilst playing poker machines.

In assessing the degree to which problem gamblers use ATMs relative to recreational gamblers, the Productivity Commission found that the large bulk of recreational players never used an ATM at a venue when playing the poker machines, while the large bulk of problem gamblers did use an ATM, with one in five problem gamblers always doing so. At table 16.7 of the report, the questions was asked, ‘How often do you withdraw money from an ATM at a venue when you play the poker machines?’. In response, 78.2% of non-problem players said ‘never’, 11.8% said ‘rarely’ and 5% said ‘sometimes’. Only 1.4% said ‘often’, 3.2% said ‘always’ and 0.4% could not say. For problem gamblers with a SOG score of 5 and above, which is the threshold for problem gambling, 34.6% said ‘never’, 12.4% said ‘rarely’, 15.1% said ‘sometimes’, 16.5 % said ‘often’ and 21.3% said ‘always’. In relation to problem gamblers with a SOGS score of 10-plus, 18.2% said ‘never’, 7% said ‘rarely’, 16.1% said sometimes, 34.8% said ‘often, and 23.9% said ‘always’. (The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) is a particular set of questions that is used to determine whether a person is a problem gambler. A score of 5 or more suggests a person is a problem gambler and a score of 10 or more suggests a person is a severe problem gambler.)

Overall, problem gamblers surveyed by the Commission ranked ‘ATM location’ as one of the most important issues for effective harm minimisation with 37.8% of problem gamblers (SOG 5+) and 58.7% of problem gamblers (SOGS 10+) reporting that they often or always withdrew money from an ATM at a venue when playing poker machines compared to 4.6% of non-problem players.

The more recent report “The Use of ATMS in ACT Gaming Venues: An Empirical Study”, commissioned by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission and published in September 2004, found that regular and problem gamblers access ATMs at gaming venues more frequently than recreational and non-gamblers.

It also showed that a staggering 60% of self-identified problem gamblers usually access ATMs at clubs. This is compared with only 25% of regular gamblers, 12.7% of recreational gamblers and 5.2% of non-gamblers who reported accessing an ATM at a club. Sixty percent of those self-identified problem gamblers also reported withdrawing more than $100 as compared with ATM withdrawals of less than $100 for all other gambler groups.

The Tasmanian experience also highlights the benefits of removing ATMs from licensed venues. Unlike other States and Territories, Tasmania doesn’t have ATMs in its pubs and clubs and their losses per capita are significantly less than the rest of the country. For instance, figures from the 24th edition of Australian Gambling Statistics show that for 2005-2006, the turnover per machine in Tasmania was $397 095 compared with $582 549 for South Australia. The turnover for gaming machines per capita for Tasmania was $2575 compared with $6100 for South Australia. While there are other influences that may have had an impact on these figures, the absence of ATMs must be a significant factor.

My own personal discussions with gambling counsellors and problem gamblers over the years have backed up the research showing a link between easy access to ATMs and gambling addiction.

This bill alone will not eliminate problem gambling. However, at the very least, by limiting access to cash inside a venue, gamblers will, in many instances, have time to reflect on their actions and think twice about withdrawing money from an ATM at another location to continue gambling.

As mentioned in my first speech, I was heartened by the Prime Minister’s comments about the effects of poker machines when he said he hated them and knew something of their impact on families.

The fact that close to 250 000 Australians are poker machine problem gamblers and that for every problem gambler there are seven other people affected in some way, should be of great concern to us all. I hope there will be bipartisan support for this bill.

Senator XENOPHON —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.