New laws to stiffen penalties against clubs that breach poker machine rules will be introduced to the Assembly by the end of the year in response to the overturning of a $120,000 fine against the Raiders Club Belconnen in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the Government was extremely disappointed with the outcome of the Raiders Club case and how long it took.
The Raiders Club appealed against the fine imposed by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission after an almost year-long investigation into a complaint by problem gambler Laurie Brown, who alleged the club did not take steps as required by law to prevent her putting $226,050 through the pokies.
The Commission has now decided to reprimand the Club and agree to it making a donation of $60,000 to an appropriate charity.
Mr Ramsay said the case was not transparent enough and the penalties ultimately imposed as insufficient.
“The outcomes of the recent enforcement action in response to Professor Laurie Brown’s complaint make clear that there is more work to do,” he said.
“We need to ensure that our gambling harm minimisation rules are effective and that venues who do not comply face meaningful consequences. Professor Brown lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to the poker machines at the Raiders Club. Clubs who fail to take steps to protect their patrons should face penalties that reflect the significance of the harm they cause.”
Mr Ramsay said the Territory’s gaming regulations would be reviewed to ensure they offer meaningful and effective harm minimisation and that the Commission has the tools it needs to enforce them more effectively.
“Before the end of this year, I will bring forward amendments to the Gambling and Racing Control (Code of Practice) Regulation 2002 that address self-exclusion, staff training, and the enforceability and magnitude of penalties for breaches of the Code,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, David Snowden, said clubs and venues were expected to comply with the law and identify and act on signs of gambling harm on their premises.
He said the Commission had identified areas of possible law reform and would be advising the Government.
It had also instructed Access Canberra to launch inspections at licensed venues to ensure they were complying with ATM and EFTPOS limits.
The Government is committed to reducing the number of poker machines in the ACT to 4,000 by 2020, and Mr Ramsay said Neville Stevens’ had delivered his report on how clubs could diversify their income sources to cope with the change.
“The report makes a number of findings and recommendations about how best to support clubs to voluntarily surrender their authorisations and to diversify their businesses to reduce reliance on gaming revenue. I will be announcing the Government’s response to his findings in August,” he said.
The Government will also release soon its response to the recent Auditor-General’s Report into ACT clubs’ community contributions.
“Gambling is a highly regulated industry because of the risks it involves. Too many lives are negatively impacted because of their own gambling or the gambling of a family member or friend. Legislation is not static, and it must be revised to fit changing circumstances,” Mr Ramsay said.