Currently, the Victorian Legislative Assembly is debating the second tranche of legislation to arise from the Victorian Royal Commission into Crown Casino. It includes changes to separate liquor and gambling regulation, provide the regulator and inspectors with additional powers and most importantly, legislate that minimising harm is a core function of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC).
Sixteen months ago when the Royal Commission was announced, the Alliance hoped that we would see a regulator with teeth and a gambling harm focus. To see this legislation before parliament and to hear the Minister for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Melissa Horne, say at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee that this legislation is necessary due to the ‘predatory behaviour’ that was 'morally reprehensible' of the casino is encouraging. These are significant steps forward but we still have a long way to go.
Firstly, we need to shift away from an addiction paradigm and urgently move to a public health approach. Using the wording ‘minimising harm’ accepts that some level of harm will occur whereas alternatively using wording like ‘preventing harm’ is a zero tolerance to harm. We need change at a cultural level and to ensure that legislation like this is not tokenistic.
We will be working with the new gambling regulator to ensure that when it comes to informing their legislative responsibility to focus on gambling harm, it is done in consultation with those with lived experience and also follows a true public health rather than a blame the victim ‘gambling responsibly’ approach.
As we watch this legislation progress through the Legislative Assembly and on to the Legislative Council in the coming weeks, we are also eagerly awaiting the third tranche of legislation following the Royal Commission. The third tranche will hopefully include many of the gambling harm prevention measures such as universal pre-commitment at the casino. It is in this legislation that perhaps we will see the greatest changes to reducing gambling harm in the casino - and we will urge this also happens at pubs and clubs too.
It cannot go without highlighting that we would not be where we are now talking about gambling harm prevention legislation without the stories that shaped the Royal Commission. I acknowledge the incredible contribution of our Voices for Gambling Reform group who wrote submissions or spoke to the Commission about their experiences. We are at this significant point in history because of their work and it needs to be commended.
Carol Bennett, CEO