Rushed reforms passed on Thursday to legislate recommendations from the Bergin report, but not before Independents and The Greens moved amendments to address community concerns over gambling harm.
Wesley Mission spokesperson and General Manager, Jim Wackett, said the community wants the devastating social costs of casinos to be taken as seriously as money laundering.
“Failing to include measures to reduce and prevent the harm caused by gambling in casinos denies the lived experience of hundreds of thousands of people harmed by gambling in NSW,” Wackett said.
“Research shows that well over 50 per cent of profits in any gambling venue come from people experiencing harm. No other industry would be allowed to profit from misery in this way.”
While introducing the Bill to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Minister for Hospitality and Racing, Kevin Anderson, highlighted the depth of public feeling.
“The public is tired of scandals from casinos. They are tired of casinos failing to achieve the bare minimum required of them under the law. They are tired of promises from casinos to do better. We need to see casinos actually do better,” Anderson said.
Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich moved nine amendments proposed to reduce and prevent gambling harm that were agreed to as ‘sensible’ by both the Government and the Opposition.
Greenwich thanked community advocates and reflected the voice of people in his electorate where both NSW casinos are located.
“From the outset, I make it clear that I do not support any casinos—The Star or the Crown—existing in Sydney. My constituents have expressed that view to me, and it is supported,” said Greenwich.
While the Bill establishes the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) as a casino-specific and well-resourced regulator, the rushed reforms precede the release of Bell’s recommendations from the administrative review into The Star, which are expected within weeks and anticipated to address gambling harm.
Further amends seeking to improve gambling harm measures were introduced in the Legislative Council on Thursday, this time by long-standing gambling reform supporters, Independent MP Justin Field and The Greens gambling spokesperson, Cate Faehrmann. Of the 19 amendments, four were agreed to.
Wesley Mission has committed to amplifying community voices to help counter the influence of the gambling industry.
“There will be no community tolerance for non-compliance. The community expects the harshest penalties to be applied to casino operators following their wanton disregard for people’s wellbeing,” said Wackett.
The Minister finished on Tuesday by framing community attitudes towards casinos as decided.
“The Bill gives our new independent regulator the powers to ensure compliance with the law, but it is also designed to give casinos every chance to succeed in the future and to regain the social licence they have lost. Whether they can do so is up to them,” said Anderson.
Amendments targeting gambling harm passed by the Legislative Assembly:
- Requirement for responsible conduct of gambling training to be approved by and meet requirements of the NICC
- NICC Advisory Committee on gambling harm to include members with lived experience
- Introducing player cards (linked to data) sooner, in two years
- Require casinos to take ‘all’ reasonable steps to exclude people subject to exclusion orders
- Review of the Casino Control Act sooner, in two years
Gambling harm amendments agreed in the Legislative Council:
- Report on Bell Review within nine months
- Adding an object to the Act that names explicitly minimising harm to individuals and families associated with gambling in casinos
- Annual report summarising measures to prevent and reduce harm by NICC and operators
- Including the Director of the Office of Responsible Gambling to be included on the coordination committee as a voice for harm minimisation to NICC and ILGA
About Wesley LifeForce
Established in 1995, Wesley LifeForce began as a response to the growing number of suicide deaths in Australia. Our national staff and lived experience volunteers engage, educate and empower local communities, supporting people most at risk. Wesley Lifeforce delivers community and clinical services including community Networks, Training, suicide memorial events and Aftercare services.
Voices from Wesley LifeForce Networks
Kodi – Yarn Support Connect, Coonabarabran Suicide Prevention Network NSW
“As a grassroots community network supported by Wesley LifeForce, it is exciting to hear positive news of the continuation of funding. Our network has only been up and running for a couple of years, but we are making great gains and positive outcomes, breaking down social isolation and giving the community education around mental health and suicide prevention.
“With this announcement, we will be able to continue to grow and make a positive impact on individuals and our communities. I have no doubt that our network has helped save lives and will continue to do that.”
Shyam – Power of Us Network, Kenmore QLD
“We began Power of Us after I lost my 24-year-old son to suicide in 2017. Two other young people aged 21 and 26 in our community had also taken their lives. Everyone was saying that something had to be done. A number of young people came forward, and they continue to help provide leadership to our Network. Our young people are effective in reaching their peers.
“Together, we lead workshops, participate in community events and host seminars online to reduce stigma. Within our Brisbane South-Asian community, more people are starting to participate. We are helping to build resilience through positive mental health and support.”