Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Pre-commitment technology and gambling reforms

Program: ABC Melbourne 774

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WALEED ALY: There’s been lots of suggestions about how we might be able to limit problem gambling and deal with the problem. Smart card suggestions has been one. Today we read about a suggestion that would have people wanting to play poker machines finger printed and then having to carry a USB stick to monitor their spending. That’s right a finger printed and then a USB stick. I feel like I’m in some kind of heist film or something. Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Housing, and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and she’s been good enough to join me this morning. Thank you for being there.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Waleed.

WALEED ALY: How likely is this?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think we have to recognise that each of the Australian trials where there’s been pre-commitment technology looked at, they’ve actually used a card system and so I think we have to recognise that this is the most common approach that’s been used so far.

Certainly in the trials so far the issue of player privacy has been very significantly taken into account. I think the other thing that’s important to remember is that any solution that needs to be arrived at for problem gambling really needs to be practical so user privacy has to be addressed.

We have to have a practical solution and we also need to bear in mind that the trials so far have all used a card system of different types.

WALEED ALY: So where’s this finger printing USB suggestion coming from?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think to be honest it’s a bit of a scare campaign. It’s being put about by those who don’t want this pre-commitment system put in place.

I think to go back to basics which is where you started with your introduction we do have to all acknowledge that problem gambling does destroy lives and not just the life of the individual concerned but often their family, and it can really have a terrible impact on their friends as well. So it is a serious problem in Australia.

We had the Productivity Commission do a major inquiry for the Government which was really just before the election. We’ve now agreed that we will implement a formal pre-commitment system to help deal with problem gambling because that was a recommendation of the Productivity Commission. But now we’re going through the process of working through what will be the most effective pre-commitment system for Australia.

WALEED ALY: I’m not just clear on what exactly (inaudible) was there. Because I was asking specifically about the finger printing and the USB stick. So this is just some kind of beat up, does that mean that you’re not considering that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s going to be a range of options.

WALEED ALY: Is that one of them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’m not in a position to rule anything in or out. The point I’m making to you is that all of the trials so far have been card based systems and whether that will be what is finally recommended and implemented will go through a proper process.

There’s going to be a Ministerial Advisory Committee that will have technical representatives on it, it will have those concerned with problem gambling on it. It will also have people from the clubs and hotels industries on the committee so that we can work through what a practical solution will be.

WALEED ALY: How far can you go in trying to deal with problem gambling before it becomes too fast, too draconian, too much?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, I think that’s a very good point. We do have to find a balance but that’s why we have to recognise that we do have a problem. There is a serious problem. We’ve got people anything up to 160,000 people identified by the Productivity Commission as problem gamblers and they’re spending on average around $21,000 a year themselves. So that’s a lot of money for an individual or any individual to be spending. It is having an impact on them and their families so we’ve got to balance that with, of course, recognition that a lot of people like to be recreational gamblers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we have a problem, we’ve got to find a solution. Pre-commitment has been found to be effective. We’ve now set about the task of developing the most effective way to do that.

WALEED ALY: Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Jenny Macklin.