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Melissa HORNE (Williamstown – Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Minister for Local Government, Minister for Ports and Freight, Minister for Roads and Road Safety) (10:42): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I ask that my second-reading speech be incorporated into Hansard.
Incorporated speech as follows:
On 16 July 2023, I announced Australia’s most significant package of gambling reforms. These reforms will improve the protections afforded to all Victorians that gamble, with a specific focus on helping those who experience harm.
Our reforms include:
• mandatory closure periods for gaming machine areas outside of the casino,
• a reduction in load up limits on gaming machines from $1000 to $100, an increase in spin rates to slow the rate of play on new gaming machines, reducing the speed at which money can be lost or laundered, and
• state-wide mandatory pre-commitment and carded play, putting the power in the hands of patrons through an important safeguard to prevent people spending outside their limits, and stopping money laundering in its tracks.
Today, we introduce legislation to deliver on the first of these reforms. This legislation will make sure that all electronic gaming venues outside the casino are closed between 4:00–10:00am. There will be no more staging of closing hours, providing people with an important break in play.
The government is currently consulting with stakeholders, including harm reduction stakeholders, academics, law enforcement and industry to make sure these reforms are effective as possible.
We need to make sure we get this right, and they are delivered as quickly and effectively as possible and I look forward to providing more information about the next stages of these reforms soon.
The announcement follows the introduction of some of the strongest casino laws in the world which implemented recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence.
The reforms coming out of the Royal Commission were complex and we knew that work would continue beyond the major legislation I introduced last year.
The Bill will enhance the workings of the Casino Control Act 1991 to strengthen the role of a statutory manager in the event the casino licence is cancelled, or the operator becomes insolvent.
Finally, it makes technical amendments to the payment of winnings and to provisions governing the casino operator’s liability for network outages.
I now turn to the provisions of the Bill before the House, which marks the beginning of a significant package of gambling reforms and the continuation of the important work of implementing Royal Commission reforms.
Minimising gambling harm in Victoria by extending and standardising closing periods
While the law requires venue operators to provide no more than 20 hours of gaming each day, we have seen that some gaming operators have been staggering their opening hours to allow patrons to move between venues in one area and continue gambling.
Research shows that gambling late at night is strongly associated with gambling harm. Having a break from gambling is an important gambling harm reduction measure, as bringing a person ‘out of the zone’ increases their awareness of the decisions they are making.
The Bill will stop this practice by extending the time that venues must be closed for an extra two hours and standardising the hours they must be shut. It will prohibit gaming venues from operating between 4am and 10am and introduce penalties for those gaming operators who break the law.
Extending contingency offences to interstate gaming providers
While the Minister currently has powers to ban betting on contingencies with a wagering service provider, offences relating to the ban are limited to activities in Victoria. This prevents the prohibition from being enforced in relation to interstate events that are not in the interest of Victorians.
We have seen wagering service providers offering bets on minors and amateur sports. This is clearly out of step with community expectations. Most of these wagering service providers are licenced outside of Victoria, with these events occurring outside Victoria.
The Bill will extend the offence provision to capture betting on events that take place outside of Victoria. This will allow the Minister to respond to betting contingencies that are not in the public interest, even if they are offered interstate.
This legislative change will ensure betting practices that are not in line with community expectations cannot be offered to Victorians by giving the Minister the power to respond to emerging inappropriate practices in the wagering industry.
Cleaning up complex legislation to make sure the regulator is not impeded in any decisions on casino suitability
The Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence outlined shocking behaviour from Crown Melbourne. The government moved swiftly to implement the 33 recommendations of the Royal Commission.
The work has not stopped there, and as we move towards the gambling regulator’s decision on the suitability of the operator, we need to ensure they are unimpeded in their ability to make their decision.
I want to be clear that this does not indicate the likelihood of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. The independent gambling regulator will make this decision by themselves.
The Bill will ensure the casino is able to keep operating if the current or a future casino licence is cancelled, suspended or surrendered.
It includes provisions that:
• vest managed property in the manager to facilitate operations following the appointment of external administrators,
• protect the manager from third parties who might enforce a security interest over managed property,
• protect the manager from exposure to legal action and personal liability,
• allow the manager to be paid out of net earnings before the casino operator, and
• provide the manager with access to shared services across the casino complex.
Clarifying ‘payment of winnings’ provisions
As Members would be aware, the Royal Commission uncovered significant failures by the casino operator to address money laundering and other forms of financial crime.
Amendments passed last year restricted the payment of cash winnings to a maximum of $1,000 in a 24-hour period.
To improve the workings of these reforms, the Bill will amend the payment of winnings provisions so that they commence at the same time as carded play on all games at the casino, including table games.
This will ensure the casino has time to implement the world-leading technology required to track cash across the whole gaming floor – including world first technology for table games which needs to be invented.
These amendments align with the intent of existing legislation.
From December 2023, any person who plays a gaming machine at the casino will be required to track their play using the pre-commitment system, YourPlay.
Recent reforms introduced significant penalties for where the casino operator fails to implement mandatory pre-commitment framework.
This will leverage the state-wide pre-commitment framework – YourPlay – which is provided on every gaming machine in the state and is operated by a third-party licensee.
As we have moved towards the soon to commence start date, there is a need to update the existing framework to account for ‘downtime’, when technical outages occur in the system which are outside the casino operator’s control.
The Bill will ensure that the casino is not unfairly impacted in the occurrence of a period of downtime that is outside their control.
This would be enabled through a Ministerial Direction, which will provide strict directions around when such periods may be approved to ensure the framework only applies in limited circumstances.
This is not a reform, rather an administrative fix that needs to be addressed in the new legislative environment.
This legislation is a first step at implementing our recently announced major gambling agenda, as well as making technical amendments to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Although this is a significant step, there is more to come.
This government is serious about addressing gambling harm and I look forward to working with Members, harm reduction stakeholder, people with lived experience and industry as we progress our gambling reforms.
I commend the Bill to the house.