Former ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay has landed a new role as CEO of the nationally-based Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Mr Ramsay, who lost his Gininderra seat in last year’s ACT election, was an active supporter of gambling reform during his time in government and a strong advocate for removing poker machines from the ACT’s licensed venues.
His reforms were intended to reduce the total number of machines to 4000 and included funding incentives for small and medium clubs, a diversification support fund and access to reductions on charges that would make it easier for them to redevelop their land for alternate activities.
Projects including an early learning centre, electric vehicle charging stations and sports equipment have been funded to the tune of $630,000 so far. The Belconnen Bowling Club has been the most significant recipient and will use$155,000 to refit and reopen its kitchen after cutting its operating machines from 13 to eight.
Mr Ramsay told Region Media that in his new role he would be looking to form alliances with national stakeholders who can advance the public health and harm reduction agenda he set in the ACT.
Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said he was looking forward to working closely with Mr Ramsay to advance gambling reform in Australia and singled out the effectiveness of the ACT poker machines buyback scheme.
“There is so much momentum towards gambling reform around Australia right now and I’m sure Gordon has the political and social justice experience to capitalise on that,” Rev Costello said.
Poker machines will continue to be a key focus among several priorities and Mr Ramsay said this might include advocating to limit bets and hours when poker machines can be used and also the load-up limits on machines. He’s also keen to look at the proliferation of gambling advertising.
While lauding the momentum in clubs looking to move away from poker machines, Mr Ramsay added that the harm of gambling have been magnified during the pandemic when the connections between gambling, family violence and abuse have become increasingly apparent.
But he’s also noted that contract tracing technology designed to identify COVID-19 risks also demonstrates clearly that clubs can manage who is on their premises and effectively exclude problem gamblers.
In addition to his work on gambling issues, Mr Ramsay also led significant reforms in the ACT including the territory’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. He was responsible for mandatory reporting legislation under which adults can face up to two years’ in jail if they fail to report child sexual abuse.
The measure met opposition from some quarters including the Catholic Church, which maintained that it would not break the seal of confession if abuse was revealed.
Before entering the ACT Parliament, Mr Ramsay spent two decades working in community services and advocacy, both locally and nationally. As Executive Minister at Kippax Uniting Church for 19 years, he built UnitingCare Kippax into one of the ACT’s most respected social service and advocacy organisations.
Alliance for Gambling Reform board chair Sharon Dickson said she was delighted to welcome Mr Ramsay as CEO.
“Gordon has a unique combination of experience in social justice and advocacy, as CEO in a services-based organisation, working with people with lived experience, and in gambling reform in the political arena.
“I’m excited about the change we will achieve with Gordon leading the organisation”, she said.