Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023

16 May 2023

Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (17:19):

I rise today to speak on the Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023. This bill will enable flexibility when awarding the next wagering and betting licence and maximise the benefit to our state through the licensing process. This bill makes amendments to the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 to permit the award of multiple wagering and betting licences. The exclusivity periods of these licences will be determined by the responsible minister. The bill also removes the ‘no less favourable’ racing industry funding requirement for awarding a wagering and betting licence.

Currently our state’s wagering and betting licence is solely held by Tabcorp. It commenced back in July 2011 and will expire next year, on 15 August 2024. For more than 10 years only one retail wagering and betting licence has existed in operation. This bill will change this to permit the award of multiple licences with exclusivity periods determined by the minister, which will allow the state to consider a broader set of options from the market. This will make sure we can extract the most value out of the licensing process as possible and will also allow a flexible market approach to attract interest in the wagering and betting licence and ensure government can respond to the latest market conditions. Having an exclusivity period will mean the state would not be able to issue another wagering and betting licence that has effect during the period of exclusivity. For example, the state could issue one wagering and betting licence for a term of 20 years with an exclusivity period of 10 years. After this point – after 10 years – the state could issue additional licences.

Removing the ‘no less favourable’ requirement will also remove barriers to awarding licences and increase competition. Historically this requirement was needed to show that before granting a licence application, the minister was satisfied that the applicant was entering into arrangements with the Victorian racing industry that were no less favourable to them than the arrangements under the current licence. This dates back to when the Victorian TAB was privatised and gaming machines were introduced. And we all know on this side of the chamber that it was Jeff Kennett who privatised the Victorian TAB, because those opposite me today have never seen a thing they did not want to privatise, cut or slash. Our community in Ripon still feels the impact of Jeff Kennett’s privatisations. As is so often the case, it falls on Labor governments to clean up the mess of privatisation. Jeff Kennett himself said that he regrets privatising the TAB, and I thank him for his honesty. However, I will note that we still have not had that admission from the former Premier about the privatisation of the SEC. We have not had that admission about shutting down the Maryborough and Ararat train lines, which will never, ever happen under a Labor government. We have not had a sorry for closing down our schools and TAFE campuses and slashing funding from our hospitals.

Michael O’Brien: On a point of order, Acting Speaker, accepting that the member is a new member to the house, she still required to speak vaguely on the bill, and I would encourage you to draw her back to the bill.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Jackson Taylor): I will rule on the point of order. It has been a wideranging debate, is my understanding. The member has been on the topic of the bill. In that context, I will ask the member to come back to the bill, but I do not uphold the point of order.

Martha HAYLETT: I am glad that Jeff Kennett admits that privatisation is not the answer to every single problem for those opposite, just seemingly most of them. Before Kennett privatised the TAB, my father-in-law worked for the TAB in Ballarat in 1967 for four years as a ticket sorter. He was only 15 years old when he started. He used the funds to put himself through university once he turned 18 and moved to Melbourne. You would not see a 15-year-old working in a TAB anymore, and rightly so. It was a different time back then, but some things have not changed. Ensuring the government is getting the policy settings right to enable the best outcome for the community is still so important. Previously the ‘no less favourable’ requirement aimed to address concerns from the racing industry that they would be disadvantaged by the privatisation and potentially lose out on jobs and wagering revenue previously provided to them by the Victorian TAB. These conditions have now changed, with the current wagering and betting licensing arrangements reflecting market conditions that no longer exist.

Over the last decade alone the gambling environment in our state and nation has changed significantly. Technological advancements have seen online gambling grow, and there are no longer advertising restrictions on bookmakers licenced in other states and territories. As a result, the wagering and betting market has become a national market and the licensee is subject to much more significant competition from bookmakers licenced in other states and territories. Removing the ‘no less favourable’ requirement will free up future options in a changed market whilst also getting the balance right to support the racing industry that adds $4.7 billion annually to our economy and 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs, including across my electorate of Ripon. These changes will ensure our proud racing industry continues to be funded from wagering generated on its product, helping the industry to back jobs and events that benefit our rural and regional communities.

Speaking of jobs, I was so proud to join the Minister for Racing and the member for Wendouree at the Ballarat Turf Club in Miners Rest last week to announce a $3.1 million investment by the Andrews Labor government to deliver 200 jobs in the racing industry through Jobs Victoria. One hundred of the jobs will be at the stables in Ballarat, which the Ballarat Turf Club are over the moon about. The roles are open to people who face barriers to employment, such as people with disability, young people under 25 and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The racing industry is a major economic driver for Victoria, we all know that, and it is a significant economic driver in my electorate of Ripon. In Ballarat alone it supports over 700 full-time jobs. This government will always support each rural and regional Victorian working in the racing industry, whether they are working at the Avoca Shire Turf Club, the St Arnaud racing club, the Ararat Turf Club, the Wedderburn harness racing club, the Maryborough Harness Racing Club or any of the other clubs across our region.

We are a nation of punters. Whether you just put 20 bucks on the nose for the race that stops the nation or are a more frequent customer, punting is a legitimate activity that many people enjoy, but of course it is not without its complications. We know that problem gambling can be extremely harmful, and this is why it is also important to stress that the Victorian licensee or licensees in the future will be subject to the strongest regulator in the country. On 1 January 2022 our government established the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission to provide stronger, more focused regulation of our state’s gambling industry. It has oversight of all gambling and gaming activity within Victoria, from pubs and clubs through to the casino. The commission is required to undertake activities to minimise gambling harm. We also have the nation’s largest commitment to addressing gambling harm, with $153 million over four years to deliver communication and education strategies, research, counselling and treatment services to people experiencing harm from gambling. I want to thank the member for Eureka for all of her hard work and continued advocacy in the space.

As previously said, we are getting the balance right with this bill. We are getting on with what matters. We are ensuring our community benefits even more from future wagering and betting licences and that our state gets the best financial benefit. We are also supporting our proud racing industry that gives back to many of our rural and regional communities, including across Ripon. It is important that we continue to support the industry well into the future, as many livelihoods depend on it. We are also making sure that we address gambling harm and support those in our community who are struggling with its effects. I thank all the members who spoke before me for their important contributions today, and I commend this bill to the house.