Leave granted for the Betting Tax Bill 2018 and the Betting Tax Assessment Bill 2018 to be considered cognately, and for the Betting Tax Bill 2018 to be the principal bill.
Second Reading — Cognate Debate
Resumed from 1 November.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [8.58 pm]: I rise to make a short contribution to the debate on the Betting Tax Bill 2018 and the Betting Tax Assessment Bill 2018, because I want to make some specific points about the issue of problem gambling, and where that fits within the scope of the revenues that will be raised. As my colleague Hon Robin Chapple has already mentioned in his contribution, the $279.6 million that this tax will raise is 15 per cent of taxable betting revenue. We are talking about player loss. Although the racing codes are set to benefit in quite a sizeable way, I note that not one cent has been put aside to address problem gambling. It is a particular concern in an environment where we are looking at the rise of online gambling, and suggestions of increased access to simulated racing products. The evidence shows that, with an increase in gambling, there will be a corresponding increase in the number of problem gamblers.
Gambling is very popular in this country. Up to 70 per cent of Australians gamble each year, but problem gambling is estimated to affect 0.7 per cent of the adult Australian population, and a further 1.7 per cent of that population is estimated to be at a moderate risk of problem gambling. It is important to note that for each problem gambler, six other people are affected; for each moderate-risk gambler, about three others are affected; and for each low-risk gambler, an additional person is affected. It is more than simply the people who gamble; it is also the flow-on effect on the people around them. Fortunately, in Western Australia we do not have the problems associated with pokies that we know happen in other states because successive governments have been very good at making sure that we have not gone in that direction, but we certainly do not shy away from partaking in gambling more broadly. Western Australians spend up on racing and sports betting. Of the states and territories, we have the third highest spending per capita on each of these products, and research shows that 41 per cent of those betting on sports or racing are experiencing some form of harm.
I think all members of our community are entitled to protection from the social harm that results from problem gambling. I am talking about a very broad range of problems that emerge. We know that problem gambling is linked to relationship breakdown, family violence, mental health issues, suicide, homelessness, social isolation and also, importantly, something for all of us to be concerned about: an increase in crime rates. It is not as though we have come anywhere close to eradicating these problems within this state. The government has the responsibility to ensure that effective harm minimisation measures are funded, implemented and monitored in order to prevent problem gambling, which has the potential to affect the entire community. I find it hard to believe that the Problem Gambling Support Services Committee cannot do more in this space. It does not seem to be operating at capacity. I note that the committee has built up in the order of $1 million in reserves. I am told that this reserve was deliberately built up in case of extra need, but it has not been required to cover the cost of the counselling services offered via the committee, and therefore contributors will not pay their usual voluntary contribution this year. I note, however, that the Problem Gambling Support Services Committee’s 2017–2020 strategic plan details a number of objectives that are far broader than counselling, including increasing awareness of the impact of excessive gambling; identifying and addressing gaps in service delivery; maintaining contemporary knowledge of issues and trends; and implementing and maintaining responsible gambling initiatives. On the face of it, it would seem that there is plenty that the committee could get on with funding.
In any event, it is clear that there is a need for more action on problem gambling within Western Australia, and not including provisions to minimise the harms associated with problem gambling represents an enormous missed opportunity. I felt it was important to at least get those concerns on the record.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
Debate adjourned, on motion by Hon Pierre Yang.