Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Liquor And Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2018

Horse race

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 18:23 :07 ): I speak in debate on the Liquor and Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, and cognate bills. Problem gambling is a scourge on our society. In my life as a lawyer I specialised in areas that included civil fraud. As a senior barrister I only saw the worst cases but I had many cases involving people with gambling habits where they stole millions of dollars from their employers. They ruined not only their lives by ultimately going to jail but also the lives of their family through the dissipation of their family assets. A related issue that has concerned me for a long time is that I could not sit down and watch sporting fixtures on television with my son when he was very young without being bombarded with gambling advertising. As he is now 17 years of age it does not worry me as much as it did 10 years ago when he was in primary school but it is still a concern for all of us. What is particularly alarming is the way in which people associated with gambling have become part of the program themselves, normalising that activity.

I thank the Minister for imposing controls on gambling advertising as I am uncomfortable about young children in their homes being brainwashed into thinking there is something cool or even manly about pouring their money down the gambling black hole when the stakes are always stacked against gamblers. This is not an easy area. To some extent sporting competitions have become addicted to the revenue from gambling advertising. However, I would like to think from an ethical point of view we can do more in this area in the future. I am relieved that we are passing advertising provisions in this bill—an issue about which I will say more later.

When my son was younger what worried me was the normalising of the gambling behaviour that was presented to our youth. I had many conversations with him about the dangers of gambling, just as I did about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. But we must realise that not all children have the benefit of appropriate guidance, especially if their parents are not responsible with regard to gambling, and drinking or taking illegal drugs. I turn to the detail of the bill and to the gambling advertising provisions in part 4A. In new section 33G the definition of "gambling advertisements" include, relevantly and appropriately in subsection (2), the publication of gambling advertisements on a website. In new section 33H there is a general prohibition on gambling related advertisements. Subsection (1) states:

A non-proprietary association or licensed betting service provider or any other person must not publish or communicate, or cause to be published or communicated, whether from in or outside New South Wales, any gambling advertisement that may be accessible to a person in New South Wales and that contravenes any requirement of this section.

That is an important provision in a number of respects because, first, it recognises one way to avoid restrictions imposed by this Parliament is to publish from outside New South Wales. This provision makes it clear that it will capture activity that is happening within New South Wales that may be emanating from outside New South Wales. Significantly, there are substantial penalties. Under the new section 33H (1) (b) the maximum penalty for a corporation is $55,000. Under subsection (2) there are several prohibitions. It is important to note in subsection (1) (b) that a gambling advertisement must not depict children gambling, which I think is very desirable. Under subsection (1) (d) gambling advertisements must not suggest that winning will be a definite outcome when participating in gambling activities.

Under subsection (1) (g) there is a requirement that gambling advertisements must not "be published otherwise than in accordance with decency, dignity and good taste". From my point of view I would say that that would stop all gambling advertising because it is inherently indecent, undignified and in bad taste. However, we will have to wait to see whether the courts interpret the legislation in accordance with my views. Importantly, under subsection (1) (h) gambling advertisements must not "include any inducement to participate, or to participate frequently, in any gambling activity (including an inducement to open a betting account)". New section 33H subsection (3) states:

A reference to an inducement under subsection (2) (h):

(a)includes an inducement that involves an offer that is not available to persons resident in New South Wales ...

That subsection picks up one of the tricks that has been used to try to circumvent existing New South Wales restrictions, whereby nationally broadcast advertisements in the past have contained a rider that says, "This inducement is not available to New South Wales residents." But the fact that it is being broadcast to New South Wales effectively achieves that purpose. I commend the Minister for plugging this loophole. This provision stops that activity from continuing and carries with it substantial maximum penalties of $55,000 for corporations. I anticipate that this will be a significant deterrent to such activity in the future.

New section 33H subsection (4) has penalties for advertisements in writing which do not contain the prescribed advisory statement warning against the dangers of gambling. Again that carries a maximum penalty of $55,000 for a corporation. Subsection (5) is a transitional provision that stops existing arrangements from continuing if they infringe this legislation that the Minister has brought before the House. I cannot finish without referring to new section 33I, which has provisions dealing with gambling related advertisements during sporting fixtures. Subsection (2) states:

A person must not publish a gambling advertisement in relation to a sporting fixture during the sporting fixture including during any breaks in the sporting fixture.

Again that carries a maximum penalty of $55,000 for a corporation. There are some exceptions. Of relevance is the definition in subsection (6) (a) of an "extended sporting fixture":

a sporting fixture that is scheduled to take place over a period exceeding 4 hours …

Under subsection (3) "extended sporting fixtures" are exempt from that exclusion which effectively means that the prohibition on gambling advertisements is limited to sporting events of four hours or less. There are other exemptions including the exemption under new section 33I (4) (b) for advertisements published on the internet. Those advertisements are exempt because they are already covered by Federal legislation—the Interactive Gambling Act. There is also an exemption for publication of advertisements in gambling premises which are, of course, restricted premises to which children under the age of 18 years cannot be exposed. New section 33J has important restrictions on gambling inducements with the maximum penalty of $55,000 for a corporation. I commend the Minister for tightening this area and introducing socially responsible and desirable legislation.