CASINO CONTROL AMENDMENT BILL 2010
The Hon. MICHAEL VEITCH
(Parliamentary Secretary) [8.26 p.m.], on behalf of the Hon. Ian Macdonald: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard
The Casino Control Amendment bill 2010 contains a range of amendments to the Casino Control Act 1992.
This bill represents the second tranche of reforms to the regulation of the casino foreshadowed by the Government in 2009.
These amendments seek to:
Provide legislative consistency for civil or criminal liabilities regarding patron exclusions and patron exclusions more generally
Modernise the regulatory framework for the training and licensing of the casino's special employees
Remove legislative anomalies and barriers to future developments in gaming and
Remove red tape and barriers inhibiting the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority (the Authority) from implementing better and more efficient ways of achieving its objectives.
As with the amendments to the Act passed by the Parliament in the previous session this bill does not change the "single casino" arrangement approved by the Parliament.
Like the earlier reforms this bill serves to ensure that the casino remains free from criminal influence or exploitation that gaming in the casino is conducted honestly and that the potential of the casino to cause harm to the public interest and to individuals and families is contained.
Authority inspectors will continue to maintain an on-site presence at the casino on a 24 hour-a-day 7 days a week basis to assist the Authority to keep under constant review all matters connected with the casino.
This bill proposes amendments to strengthen the existing patron exclusion provisions within the Act to keep out undesirables from interstate.
The first of these amendments is an important one. It ensures that an exclusion order by a Police Commissioner acting under corresponding casino legislation in another Australian State or Territory applies in NSW. Under the proposal the NSW Commissioner of Police on being advised of a casino exclusion issued by a Police Commissioner in another jurisdiction is required to direct the Star City casino to exclude that individual as well.
For example, if the Victorian Commissioner of Police excludes an individual from Melbourne's Crown Casino that individual would be automatically excluded from Star City in Sydney at the direction of the New South Wales Commissioner of Police. The same would apply to the revocation of any such exclusion order issued interstate.
It is also proposed that the NSW Commissioner of Police be required to notify the Police Commissioner in another Australian State or Territory of a directive to the New South Wales casino operator to exclude a person and of a revocation of any such directive.
These changes bring the New South Wales legislation into line with other jurisdictions and provide legal certainty for all involved in the process in NSW.
The proposed amendment bolsters the existing exclusion arrangements for the casino under the Act. Current arrangements allow the NSW Commissioner of Police, the Authority and the casino operator to exclude individuals from the casino and for individuals to voluntarily have themselves excluded from the casino by the casino operator or the Authority.
Exclusion provisions in the form of patron self-exclusion schemes have also existed for hotels and clubs with gaming machines for some years under the Gaming Machines Act.
The difference is that responsible persons at hotels and clubs and clubs themselves are provided with a degree of protection from legal liability with respect to implementing their gaming machine self-exclusion schemes.
No such protection currently exists in relation to the casino.
The bill addresses this issue and confers a limited protection from legal liability in respect of the implementation of the casino's exclusion requirements.
I must stress that the protection from civil legal proceedings does not extend to anyone whose negligence causes personal injury or the death of a person.
To reduce red tape from the casino's regulatory system this bill amends the Act's provision relating to controlled contracts. That is, contracts that require an investigation of the contract by the Authority and the consequent approval or disapproval of the contractors involved.
In future controlled contracts will only be contracts for the supply or servicing of approved gaming equipment and contracts that the Authority declares by notice in writing to the casino operator as being materially significant to the integrity of the operation of the casino.
This more contemporary risk-based approach to the review of contracts by the Authority will result in far fewer controlled contracts as existing contracts end or are replaced by new contracts and each of those contracts being more intensely scrutinised.
I am advised that there are currently around 160 controlled contracts. This amendment should reduce that number to approximately 30 controlled contracts. This change will occur over time but is unlikely to occur in the short term.
The regulations governing the casino already prohibit the offering of certain inducements to gamble to people already inside the casino.
This bill makes it clear that agents of the casino or casino employees inside or in the vicinity of the casino are prohibited from inducing people outside the casino to enter or gamble in the casino.
A goal of this bill is to complete the modernising of the casino legislation with respect to the conduct of gaming.
The bill makes a number of changes to accommodate future developments and innovations in the conduct of gaming.
The first is to ensure that where a gaming equipment approval is in force no equipment other than the approved gaming equipment is to be used and it must only be used in accordance with the "approval".
It is proposed to remove the regulatory burden on the Authority and the casino operator of requiring the Authority to approve "any device or thing" used or capable of being used in connection with gaming. It will allow the Authority to determine what equipment is relevant to the integrity of gaming and therefore requiring its approval.
Poker in other jurisdictions worldwide is now dealt from the hand as well as by using "card shoes" and it is likely that other methods of dealing may evolve in the future. The amendments in this bill recognise this.
This bill introduces changes to accommodate developments in the means of moving money around the casino and the making of wagers that are far more secure and accountable but which might otherwise be precluded by the current wording of the Act. For example, making use of "virtual chips" in games like electronic roulette are seen as providing better security and accountability of wagers and minimising opportunities for cheating.
Another benefit of innovations such as virtual chips is that criminal elements would not able to use counterfeit chips.
Lastly, with respect to the conduct of gaming, this bill amends the definition of "junket" to ensure that it reflects the current conduct of junket.
Special employees perform roles critical to the integrity of the casino's operation and are required to be licensed under the Act. The bill does not change this.
This bill provides a framework for making the skills of special employees more relevant and that improves the efficiency of the training and certification process.
The proposed amendments ensure that special employees' functions are compatible with the certificate of competency issued to them.
The onus will be on the casino operator to ensure that special employees do not perform multiple functions that are incompatible and for example may weaken the casino's control processes.
This bill provides the Authority with a reserve power whereby it can set standards that must be met before a competency certificate can be issued. It replaces the requirement for the Authority to approve each training course for special employees.
Experience has demonstrated that the casino operator is well placed to undertake the detailed design and arrange the delivery of training for its staff.
The reserve power proposed will ensure that the Authority can act before or if individuals are inappropriately issued with a certificate of competency.
Members will note that the casino operator is already required to provide the Authority with immediate and unrestricted access to up-to-date training records.
The Authority will therefore maintain a significant role in determining training standards for casino special employees.
Further red tape is eliminated by repealing the requirement for certificates of competency issued by the casino operator to accompany applications for special employee licences.
This bill also amends the Act so as to remove the requirement for the Authority to approve simulated gaming.
Simulated gaming is conducted for testing demonstration purposes or training purposes and is a normal activity of the casino operator. No money is used and no chips are used in place of money. This amendment removes red tape.
This bill also makes some straightforward machinery amendments to the Act.
The first of these is to clarify what matters are to be included in the Authority's annual reports.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS
The Authority's Annual Report will continue to report on significant matters such as the previous 'Clause 6 Reviews' conducted under the Surveillance Amending Deed, but would not have to include matters such as the ongoing audits that the Manager Casino Review conducts on casino operations, for example, training programs.
This bill removes an anomaly that prevents the casino operator from applying to the Authority for a change to the system of administrative controls and accounting procedures approved by the Authority.
Finally, this bill replaces the limitation on Penalty Notices of six penalty units, $660 or 10% of maximum amount of penalty that could be issued by a court with a limit equivalent to the maximum penalty which could be imposed for the offence by a court. This change would make the Act consistent with section 150(9) of the Liquor Act 2007 which provides for similar offences and takes the proposed approach to the limits for penalty notices.
It should be noted that this amendment does not automatically increase the current fines attached to Penalty Notices. These can only be increased by amending the Casino Control Regulation.
In conclusion this bill completes the implementation of a range of reforms arising out of the review of the Act conducted by the Authority and the casino operator.
The Authority operates independently of the Government. It has a reputation for integrity and expertise in the regulation of casino operations.
The Authority would not support the changes contained in this bill if it were not completely satisfied that they improved the regulation of the casino and did not compromise the future integrity of the casino's operations.
I commend this bill to the House.
[8.26 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the Coalition on the Casino Control Amendment Bill 2010. The Coalition will not oppose this bill. However, it is interesting to note that the Government has adopted the Coalition's policy on a single casino State for New South Wales. We applaud the Government for that because that has been our position for a long time. It is good to see the Government adopting yet another one of our policies.
The bill represents the second tranche of reforms following a review by the Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority last year. The amendments provide legal certainty in relation to removing excluded persons, reducing some red tape and removing legislative anomalies and barriers inhibiting the authority from implementing its charter. Included in the bill are certain provisions that seek to limit controlled contracts in relation to the supply or servicing of gaming equipment. In the past, controlled and notifiable contracts have included services such as air-conditioning. While the casino will still be required to maintain records of all contracts, the controlled and notifiable contracts will apply only to the supply and servicing of gaming equipment.
In the past the licensing of special employees according to their function has prevented employees from working elsewhere in the casino. The new provision will license those employees according to their areas of competency and allow them to operate in more than a single area of the casino. There will, of course, be training courses for those employees, which will enable the operator of the casino to issue certificates of competency and determine where those employees are able to work.
The bill seeks to limit the use of gaming equipment in accordance with its approval, to permit mechanical poker games and other modern technology as it emerges and to clarify the prohibition of inducements to enter the casino. The bill also will direct the New South Wales police commissioner to direct the exclusion of certain persons who have been excluded by a police commissioner in another jurisdiction and the New South Wales police commissioner will be required to notify the police commissioners in other States of any persons excluded from the New South Wales casino. The bill also will give legal protection for the police commissioner and persons removing excluded persons from civil or criminal liability. That does not extend to the case where the negligence causes injury or death of a person and provides only limited protection in relation to gaming-related losses. Other clauses include providing the operator with a formal capacity to seek a change of systems of controls and procedures to replace the limit of 10 per cent of the maximum amount of penalty that could be imposed by the court to a penalty not exceeding the maximum amount.
The bill includes some minor administrative amendments, such as a new definition of "junket", whereby non-gambling trips, or junkets—for example, to see a show—will not require pre-registration. The bill does not represent any new negotiation about the casino's licence. While some provisions will be welcomed by Star City Casino, the bulk of the important amendments enhance the execution by the operator and the police of a measure relating to responsible gaming laws. The bill does not abolish the authority or reduce its general powers associated with casino operations. As such, the Opposition will not oppose the bill.
Ms LEE RHIANNON
[8.32 p.m.]: The Star City Casino is a huge donor to both the New South Wales Labor Party and the New South Wales Coalition. The Casino Control Amendment Bill 2010 represents a loosening of regulation of the casino by the New South Wales Government.
This is the second tranche of the so-called casino regulation reforms in as many years. Last year's bill was a case study in how the culture of donations in New South Wales is corrupting the political process. The reduction in the regulation of the Star City Casino suggests an unhealthy relationship between the New South Wales Labor Party and two of its biggest donors—Star City Casino and Tabcorp. Between them, the casino and Tabcorp have donated nearly $500,000 to the New South Wales Labor Party over the past decade. Last year's bill removed the Casino Gaming Authority's function of directly supervising the casino. The casino is now subject to a comprehensive operational review every five years, not every three years, and it can now use virtual chips and bank internationally, not only in New South Wales, to better attract international high rollers.
The bill before the House delivers another win for the Star City Casino, courtesy of the Labor Government, with a bit of help from the Coalition. Clause 27 provides new protections for casino owners and employees from criminal and civil liability when preventing an excluded person from entering the casino or removing such a person, as long as it is done in "good faith". The bill also introduces a new protection for the casino owner, operator and employees from civil liability if they, by an innocent failure, do not stop an excluded person from entering or remaining at the casino or fail to remove them. This removes the impetus for the casino and the staff to properly monitor and enforce the excluded person program. It removes liability if, for example, a self-excluded person seeks to sue the casino for failing to properly enforce the scheme, resulting in personal losses from gambling during the time the person was an excluded person.
The bill also limits what the Casino Control Authority must include in its annual report. It is no longer required to provide a summary of the outcome of reviews conducted. It also changes various regulations relating to the conduct of gaming in the casino. For example, it removes the need for the authority to approve certain types of gaming equipment. It also loosens the training requirement for special employees, who are crucial in managing the casino's operations. Special employees are people who are employed by the casino, are working in the casino in a managerial capacity, or are authorised to make decisions involving the exercise of his or her discretion, and also persons employed or working in the casino in any capacity related to the conduct of gaming, movement, exchange or counting of money or chips, security or surveillance, or the operation, maintenance, construction or repair of gaming equipment.
Of greatest concern are the new laws that protect casino staff from criminal liability in the event a patron is injured or killed while being removed from the premises. This is another round of concessions from the Government, but this time it creates a two-tiered system of justice. With all the talk about assisting victims in this State, one would think that some assistance would be provided to people injured while being thrown out of the casino. However, it does not work that way. This amendment is probably in response to a 1998 case involving Peter Dalamangas, a young man who died at the Star City Casino. Members probably remember the incident. Mr Dalamangas's death was the result of the excessive forced employed by casino security officers. The changes in this bill will shield the casino and its staff from criminal liability if such an unjustified use of force occurs again.
The bill refers to acting in "good faith", but the term is not defined in the bill. The bill will also increase the risk that casino staff will act recklessly when removing patrons subject to an exclusion order because they will know that they are immune from conviction. That is not a healthy situation. I am not saying that casino staff will act that way, but if there is an altercation they will know that they are protected. That is why the Greens believe that this bill creates a two-tiered system and that it makes a mockery of this Government's law and order agenda. The Legislation Review Committee is so concerned about the implications of the new provisions that it has written to the Attorney General seeking a response.
The casino will also be shielded from being sued in situations where problem gamblers get into a casino, burn up thousands of dollars—and in some cases millions of dollars—and then seek to sue. It is likely that the casino is acting to prevent an action similar to that brought by a Melbourne high roller last year who had been self-excluded from the Crown Casino. Harry Kakavas, a Gold Coast property developer, gambled $1.5 billion in one year and then unsuccessfully sued Melbourne's Crown Casino for $35 million for the loss of his wealth. He argued that the casino exploited his addiction to gambling and preyed on that addiction by offering him inducements to gamble, including cash gifts of between $30,000 and $50,000, the use of the casino's jet and limousines, tennis tournament tickets and the extension of credit. The ABC reported that for every $100 million to $400 million that Mr Kakavas gambled at Crown Casino the casino would give him $100,000. If that is not an inducement is it hard to understand what would be.
The Hon. Greg Pearce:
He probably won.
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
Prior to his gambling binge, Mr Kakavas had taken out an order banning himself from the casino. After a change of heart in 2005, Crown Casino let him back in and during the next 14 months he gambled $1.5 billion.
The Hon. Greg Pearce:
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
Yes. I repeat: For every $100 million to $400 million that he gambled he would get $100,000 from the casino. This bill will remove the impetus to properly monitor and enforce the excluded persons program—a key protection for problem gamblers who regularly attend casinos. When that program was introduced it was lauded in media releases and Ministers were grabbing the headlines and talking about how responsible they were being. However, those measures have been slowly watered down and those provisions are being removed.
The Casino Control Amendment Bill will blunt the teeth of the watchdog—the Casino Control Authority. In recent years the casino owners have won many prizes from the Government. Concessions include extension of the duration of its operating licence, reduced frequency of reviews of its operations, extra poker machine quotas and exemptions from liquor and smoking laws. The Minister for Gaming should turn his mind to tackling the complex challenge of problem gambling rather than returning favours to his Government's generous donors in the casino, clubs and pubs industry.
As I said, Star City Casino is one of the New South Wales Labor Party's largest donors. I will recap on some of the research released by the Greens Democracy for Sale project. This year's latest disclosure from the Election Funding Authority indicates that in the last six months of 2009 Star City Casino gave $115,000 to the New South Wales Labor Party. I do not know what was going on in those six months of exchanges between the casino and the Government, but I would guess they were probably negotiating this legislation that is before the House. I am not saying there is any connection, but clearly there are parallel events going on here.
That $115,000 is on top of the staggering $448,827 that Star City Casino and its parent company, Tabcorp, have donated to the New South Wales Labor Party in the past decade. The Greens research of donations also shows that in 2008 the casino donated $110,000 to the New South Wales Labor Government two months before it was granted approval for a $344 million expansion. In 2007 the casino donated $112,200 to New South Wales Labor just months before it began negotiation over its monopoly casino licence. These massive donations made Star City Casino one of New South Wales Labor's biggest corporate fundraising partners in 2007-08.
It is an ugly story of money and politics and we know it does not stop at Labor's door. Coalition members cannot point the finger as—and I informed the House about this last year—they have also accepted hefty donations from casinos and, one would have to say, will be in the same position as Labor if they win government. The Australian Electoral Commission reported today that for the past 10 years New South Wales Liberals have accepted $109,000 from Star City Casino, while the New South Wales Nationals came in with $19,500. The New South Wales Liberals have also taken $70,000 from Tabcorp, taking the total donations from the casino—
The Hon. Lynda Voltz:
Point of order: My point of order is relevance. The member has moved a long way from the long title of the bill and I ask you to return her to the bill before the House.
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
To the point of order: I was setting out the case for the relevance of donations. The member gains no credit in trying to exclude this information. What the casino's owners donate to political parties who negotiate what will be in the legislation and then vote on the legislation in this place is clearly relevant. If that information is ruled out, it will be even more embarrassing to Labor and the Coalition.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Kayee Griffin):
Order! The member with the call should confine her remarks to the long title of the bill, which is an Act to amend the Casino Control Act 1992 to make further provision with respect to contracts concerning a casino established under that Act, the training and licensing of certain casino employees, the conduct of gaming within a casino and other matters.
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
The New South Wales Liberals have taken $70,000 from Tabcorp, taking the casino's total donations to the Coalition to $197,500. At a Federal level the Liberal Party has accepted $236,000 in donations from Tabcorp since 1999. It is an ugly story because reducing scrutiny of the casino's operations risks an escalation in problem gambling, organised crime, money laundering, prostitution, drug dealing and loan sharking. Members who are about to vote for this legislation have to recognise that they are weakening controls on the casino.
When the casino commenced, many people were troubled because we already knew from experience worldwide that casinos were always associated with certain unpleasant activities. Legislation to establish a casino was introduced into this place on the basis that tight provisions would prevent the nasty, ugly, bad aspects of casino operation. But what did we do? In this place we regularly have to consider legislation that strips away established protections, notwithstanding promises that this State will not go down the track taken by other jurisdictions. I am saying what is happening is ugly because the Government has taken this step at the request of the casino. A government staffer admitted that in one of the Tuesday briefings when I asked about this bill.
Last year the gaming Minister, Mr Greene, said this legislation was a refinement of the Act—that is a lovely word, refinement—following a thorough review of the casino Act conducted by the Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority and the casino operator. My staffer found there was no formal review, or no report of such, and it was more an ongoing government review process—one of those favourite phrases the Government comes out with. The Government says there is a review but all it is doing is using language to cover the fact that there is no formal process going on. A three-yearly review of the casino was tabled in December 2006; that was the last sign of it. I am still wondering whether the report will ever see the light of day. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to include in reply a description of what the ongoing review process—the language that was used—entails and whether the report of December 2006 will be released. That should be put on the record in this debate.
New South Wales should be moving towards tougher restrictions on casinos, not relaxing its laws. This bill not only makes life easier for the casino but introduces changes that will worsen problem gambling through the casino's operations. The Greens therefore oppose this legislation. The bill clearly undermines the hard work by dedicated people in our community to reduce the social harm and social cost of problem gambling and to reverse the trend of people gambling a lot, ending up on a slippery slope and becoming problem gamblers themselves. The Government benefits from these laws through increased gaming revenue, as do the casino and its high rollers. Clearly the losers are the problem gamblers and the wider community.
I do not know if there is a link between the Government loosening casino regulations in New South Wales and the overly generous contribution the Star City Casino makes to New South Wales Labor. It is certainly not a good look. It makes people very suspicious about how government and the democratic process in this State work. It is certainly unhealthy for democracy and for those grappling with gambling problems.
The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI
[8.47 p.m.]: I speak in support of the Casino Control Amendment Bill 2010. The bill contains amendments that are the result of the thorough review of the Act conducted by the Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority and the casino operator. The review identified that under the gaming machine laws responsible persons at hotels and clubs are provided with a degree of protection from legal liability with respect to removing self-excluded persons from the premises but that no such protection currently exists in relation to the casino. The authority recommended that this limited legal protection be provided in relation to the casino's exclusion requirements. The bill addresses this issue and confers a limited protection from civil and criminal legal liability.
I emphasise that the proposal to amend section 85 of the Act does not affect the existing provisions contained within that section. Under section 85 a casino employee or an agent of the casino removing or preventing the entry of a person excluded from the casino may still only use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances. This has not changed. The proposed amendment provides that no civil or criminal liability is incurred by a person to whom section 85 applies for any act done or omitted to be done in good faith and in accordance with section 85 of the Act.
In the case of a criminal prosecution the onus is on the prosecution to show beyond reasonable doubt that the elements of the offence are proven—for example, that the casino employee used unreasonable force when removing an excluded person, or did not act in good faith when removing a person, or prevented the entry of an excluded person. In that event the defendant, the casino employee, may offer the defence that he or she acted in good faith. For instance, the supervisor may have told the employee that the person was an excluded person and the employee did not use unreasonable force.
Where civil action is concerned, the plaintiff, that is the excluded person, will present his or her case setting out the elements of the wrongdoing, such as negligence. The respondent, the casino employee, may then offer the defence that he or she was not negligent, and present argument as to why this is the case. It is irrelevant to a claim of negligence that the casino employee may or may not have acted in good faith. The court will determine the matter on the balance of probabilities, taking all relevant circumstances into consideration.
I have already identified that a precedent for this kind of legal protection exists within the gaming machine law—section 49 of the Gaming Machines Act 2001. Other precedents include section 76 of the Liquor Act 2007 and section 136 of the Crimes Act 1900. The Government is not providing immunity from prosecution for casino employees who assault casino patrons. The Crimes Act would also still apply if the casino employee uses unreasonable force. The bill does not affect the civil liability of the person whose negligence causes personal injury or death. I commend the bill to the House.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[8.52 p.m.]: I speak on the Casino Control Amendment Bill 2010. This bill makes a number of practical changes to the Act. As an introduction, I place on record that the Christian Democratic Party has always opposed casinos, particularly a casino in New South Wales. Previously we have stated that no matter how many regulations and how much supervision are provided, casinos always attract elements of the criminal world. Somewhere in the shadows they are involved. It has been shown also that many criminals often used gambling chips to launder their ill-gotten gains, especially from the illegal drug trade, which helps the drug trade to expand in this State.
It is sad but correct, as Ms Lee Rhiannon outlined, that casinos receive many privileges. Star City Casino receives privileges concerning its operation and ability to make profits. It also receives smoking concessions for its patrons that are not enjoyed by anyone else in this State, including the registered clubs, which contribute significantly through taxation to the New South Wales budget. At regular intervals we read accurate reports of people with a gambling addiction—those who have not been banned by the Commissioner of Police—visiting the casino and losing all their available funds. There are also many others with limited or no funds who embezzle from their companies, banks, credit unions and, sadly, even church organisations to get funds to gamble at the casino.
I have all those reservations about the casino in New South Wales. I do not regard it as having any value whatsoever, even from the point of view of being a tourist attraction or as a raiser of revenue for the State Government. Survey after survey in the United States has shown that the negative aspects of casinos far outweigh their positive aspects. To use a gambling term, the Government will always be behind the eight ball; no matter what it does with the casino, it can never win. The bill does not make any significant change to the operation of the casino. It will not have a major impact on any individual, business or specific sector of the community in that it does not impose any significant compliance costs.
The bill does not reduce the level of regulatory oversight of the casino's operations. I am pleased that the Casino, Liquor and Gambling Control Authority does exercise some control, but at times it appears to be a toothless tiger and to work hand in hand with the casino operator. The bill has practical aspects that I support. It requires the casino's operators to train employees in the responsible conduct of gaming, to issue certificates of competence on the completion of training, and to provide the authority with immediate and continuous access to training records. The legislation also removes the requirement for the authority to approve all conduct of simulated gaming. The bill also seeks to provide the authority with a reserve power, allowing it to set standards in relation to certificates of competency.
The bill also seeks to ensure that all approved gaming equipment is used only in accordance with the conditions of its approval; to allow the playing of poker using other methods as well as "card shoes"; to accommodate future developments in the means of moving money and making wagers at the casino; to clarify the prohibitions concerning the offering of inducements to enter the casino; and to remove potential conflicts with the Commonwealth Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. However, I believe it is impossible to guarantee no money is laundered and there is no indirect financing of terrorism through the funds that come through the casino.
I am pleased that the New South Wales Commissioner of Police still retains the power to direct and exclude persons from the casino. The bill requires the New South Wales Commissioner of Police to direct the casino operator to exclude a person who is the subject to a casino exclusion order by a police commissioner under corresponding casino legislation in another Australian State or Territory and to notify the police commissioner in all other Australian States and Territories of a directive issued to the New South Wales casino operator to exclude a person—and of a revocation of any such directive—from the New South Wales casino.
This is an important provision but it raises the question of whether the New South Wales Commissioner of Police or members of the Police Force are aware of all the individuals who should be excluded. I doubt that they are. It may be more of a superficial function. I do not criticise the Commissioner of Police; I merely state that the practicality of the legislation's operation leaves a lot to be desired. With those few remarks, I leave the bill to the House.
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES
[8.59 p.m.]: On behalf of Family First I speak briefly to the Casino Control Amendment Bill; most of what I had wanted to say has been said by previous speakers. My concern about these issues goes back a long time—not just with regard to a prohibition on gambling but also with regard to setting up Gamblers Anonymous groups, working through Lifeline with gambling counselling services, and the establishment of gambling counsellors who later went on to serve literally throughout Australia.
Members may recall that in the early 1980s Mr Justice Street headed an important commission of inquiry. I presented a major paper at that inquiry. Among the measures put forward to Mr Justice Street were a number of measures to reduce the possibility of criminal control over the new casino, to reduce compulsive gambling, and to set up rehabilitation programs for gamblers, for exclusion benefits which would be overseen by the police commissioner. One of the measures we put forward to Mr Justice Street was the setting up of the Casino Community Benefit Trust, whereby a portion of the casino profits would be ploughed back into the community. For many years—probably 15 years—I served as a government appointee on the Casino Community Benefit Trust and as a result was part of a group of people responsible for deploying many tens of millions of dollars back into the community.
We always recognised that this was only really a token effort in terms of what a casino costs the community, particularly the impact on personal lives and disappointments experienced by so many families. I understand the overview of the bill and its objects, and I will support it. However, in the back of my mind I have grave reservations about it. It is a matter of agreeing to it with one's fingers crossed, hoping that the best will come out. I place on record that Family First is opposed to all major extensions of gambling in the community as being unhelpful to families in general; we believe too much family money is spent by unwise gamblers. Nevertheless, I recognise that this is a legitimate and legal activity and we must continue to improve the controls. So, with my fingers crossed, I will vote in support of the bill.
The Hon. MICHAEL VEITCH
(Parliamentary Secretary) [9.02 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their contributions to this debate. I will address a number of matters raised by them in the debate. In response to an issue raised by Ms Lee Rhiannon, I have been advised that the Government does not propose to provide immunity from legal action for casino security staff. Under the Casino Control Act a person in charge of the casino, an agent of the casino or a casino employee, is required to remove an excluded person, which includes a self-excluded person, from the casino. In exercising their duty, these individuals cannot use unreasonable force to prevent an excluded person from entering the casino or to remove an excluded person from the casino.
The bill provides limited liability protection with respect to the legal requirement to remove excluded persons from, or prevent their entry to, the casino. This same limited liability protection already exists under the Gaming Machines Act regarding the removal of self-excluded persons from hotels and clubs with gaming machines. No criminal or civil liability protection would exist if casino employees fail to act in good faith or if they use unreasonable force. The bill does not affect the civil liability of a person whose negligence causes personal injury or death. The Crimes Act would also still apply if the casino employee uses unreasonable force.
Ms Lee Rhiannon also raised concerns about the impact of the bill on problem gamblers. I have been advised that the Casino Control Act, and more particularly the Casino Control Regulation, already provides substantial assistance for problem gamblers. All of the assistance provided has been carefully considered and none of it is in any way lessened by this bill. The bill is not specifically directed at assisting problem gamblers but principally aims to streamline administrative procedures and controls. However, the provisions preventing people, including the casino operator and its employees, from inducing others to enter the casino to gamble have been clarified.
The existing prohibitions on offering inducements to gamble to those already inside the casino are unaffected. It should be noted that the Act, together with its regulation, already provide help and assistance to problem gamblers by way of controls on gambling inducements, the mandatory provision of player information concerning the chances of winning prizes and the dangers of gambling, a prohibition on providing credit, banning automatic teller machines or like devices in the casino, self-exclusion arrangements for problem gamblers, and a problem gambling counselling service for patrons. The Act has accommodated the self-exclusion of more than 2,300 problem gamblers from the casino. The Act continues to require the casino operator to contribute to the Responsible Gambling Fund, which funds, among other things, a statewide 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week problem gambling counselling service.
Ms Lee Rhiannon spoke about the supposed loosening of regulations. I have been advised that that will not occur. The Minister's second reading speech set out the various sensible reforms in the bill. The bill strengthens provisions relating to patrons who have been excluded in other jurisdictions. The various red tape reduction reforms do not loosen the regulatory arrangements. The amendments seek to provide legislative consistency for civil or criminal liabilities regarding patron exclusions and patron exclusions more generally; modernise the regulatory framework for the training and licensing of the casino's special employees; remove legislative anomalies and barriers to future developments in gaming; and remove red tape and barriers inhibiting the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority from implementing better and more efficient ways of achieving its objectives.
Ms Lee Rhiannon queried the review process. I have been advised that on 30 October 2007 the Government and Tabcorp announced agreement on new arrangements for the casino, including an extension of exclusivity for 12 years, changes to tax structures, and a number of operational matters. One aspect of the agreement was to allow the Casino Control Authority and Star City to conduct a thorough review and make recommendations to the Government on ways to improve the overall operation of the Act. The amendments to the Act contained in this bill reflect the recommendations arising from that review.
The review of the Act simply reflects the fact that the Government acknowledges that the Act has been in place since 1992 and that times have changed, and will continue to change, in the way gaming is conducted in Australia and overseas, and that new enforcement strategies and methods have been developed. The former Casino Control Authority conducted workshops with Star City representatives and agreed on a set of recommendations for changes to the Act that should be submitted for consideration by the Government. The working party group comprised the Chief Executive of the Former Casino Control Authority, the Director, Major Project and Investigations, of the Casino Control Authority, the General Manager Legal of Star City, and the Manager Regulatory Affairs of Star City. The working party group met on two occasions, in December 2007 and February 2008. The outcome of the review was approved by the chairman of the then Casino Control Authority. The Government then considered the review recommendations. It is not correct to assert that the casino requested the amendments.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile suggested that the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority is a toothless tiger and implied that it was conducting its duties hand in hand with the operator. This is not correct. The Act confers on the independent authority significant regulatory powers, including ultimately the removal of a licence. It is not correct to suggest that the eminent members of the authority conduct their duties hand in hand with the casino operator. The members of the authority carry out their functions impartially and in the public interest. As I said, I thank all members for their contributions to the debate, and I commend the bill to the House.
The House divided.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put.
Mr Della Bosca
Reverend Dr Moyes
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted to proceed to the third reading of the bill forthwith.
Motion by the Hon. Michael Veitch agreed to:
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
That this bill be now read a third time.