NSW Releases Draft Gambling Harm Minimisation Bill for Public Consultation

Tuesday 6 October 2020 @ 2.53 p.m. | Legal Research

On 25 September 2020, the NSW Government released the draft Gaming Machines Amendment (Gambling Harm Minimisation) Bill 2020 (NSW) (“the draft Bill”) for public consultation. The draft Bill proposes amendments to the Gaming Machines Act 2001 (NSW ) (“the Act”) in order to minimize gambling harm, and provide active support to gaming machine players. The amendments under the draft Bill follow other reforms since 2017, which were part of the government commitment to reducing gambling harm.

The Draft Bill

The draft Bill seeks to increase the level of responsibility that registered clubs and hotels have in managing gambling related harms. The amendments put forward by the draft Bill will require active identification and assistance of gaming machine players who display problematic gambling behaviours. Currently, gambling venues only provide support to individuals when they have asked for help.

The draft Bill proposes a number of new measures that aims to implement active intervention and better internal management practices in gambling venues order to minimise harmful gambling behaviours. One of the changes suggested is the new requirement of a designated Gambling Contact Officer (“Officer”), who must be on duty whenever gaming machines in venues are being used. The Officer must complete the advanced Responsible Conduct of Gambling training, and will be required to engage with members who are showing problematic gambling behaviour. The Officer is to refer them to support and counselling services, and provide them with the opportunity to self-exclude.

The amendments under the draft Bill also seeks to put more responsibilities on venues in maintaining a gambling incident register. Staff will be required to actively monitor behaviour of gambling patrons, and record details of incidents where problematic behaviours are. The Officer is also to be notified of these incidents. The draft Bill also seeks to give venues the power to issue an exclusion order to involuntarily ban members from the venue, if the person is seen to continually be experiencing gambling-related harm, but does not wish to self-exclude or seek help.

The draft Bill additionally seeks to introduce a new exclusion scheme, which will allow family members to a venue to ban someone for their problematic gambling behaviours. Under the proposed scheme, the family member will be able to apply to the venue to request the ban, or ask a gambling counsellor to apply on their behalf. Venues will be required to refer the family member to gambling counselling services prior to application. If the family member seeks to pursue an application for an involuntary exclusion order, the venue is to ensure strict confidentiality at application and assess the application. Prior to issuing the order, the venue must offer the gambler support, and if the gambler chooses not to self-exclude, the venue must assess whether or not to issue a venue exclusion order. The venue will also be required to inform both the family member and gambler of the decision of the application within 21 days of submission. Either the gambler and family member will be able to appeal the venue’s decision to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority within 14 days of the venue’s decision.

Some of the other changes proposed under the draft Bill include:

  • Allowing self-exclusion through an online portal
  • Introduction of a state-wide exclusion register in order to consolidate all exclusions into one database
  • New whistle-blower protections for staff members

Consultation Process

Some of the survey questions posed for feedback include:

“Q2. We want to ensure club and hotel staff have the right skills and training to help gamblers, by introducing a second, higher level of Responsible Conduct of Gambling training for more senior staff. Is this a good way to support venue staff to minimise gambling harm?

Q4 . We want to introduce a requirement for there to be a Gambling Contact Officer (i.e. someone with advanced Responsible Conduct of Gambling training) on duty at all times in clubs and hotels. Is this a good way to make it easier for gamblers to get support in venues, and help venues meet their responsibilities?

Q7. Most Australian states and territories penalise clubs and hotels that fail to keep excluded people out of their venue or gaming areas. Do you think we should do this in NSW?”

Consultation on the draft Bill is currently open. Further details on the survey and the progress of the consultation can be found on the NSW Government website.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

[Draft] Gaming Machines Amendment (Gambling Harm Minimisation) Bill 2020 (NSW) and regulatory impact statement available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

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