Legislative Council: Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Gambling Regulation

In reply to the Hon. F. PANGALLO ().31 May 2023).

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs has advised, in relation to question 1:

I welcome the Auditor-General's report and note that AGD Chief Executive Ms Caroline Mealor has accepted or accepted in principle each of the recommendations of the audit to ensure we are effectively protecting South Australians at risk of gambling related harm.

I note that the Auditor-General's recommendations build on an extensive program of work that was already being undertaken by Consumer and Business Services (CBS), prior to the audit, to improve the effectiveness of its gambling harm minimisation compliance activities.

This included the recruitment of additional staff in key positions as well as the establishment of a new team to undertake data analysis, research and operational, tactical and strategic intelligence work.

South Australians rightly expect that the state's gambling industry is compliant and remains compliant with gambling regulations. To that end, CBS has put measures in place for the frequent inspections of gambling venues which pose a higher risk of gambling harm to the community and is using data to better inform regulatory decision making and the risk rating of gaming venues, which in turn is driving CBS compliance activities.

Building on this important work, the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, Mr Dini Soulio, has established a project team to respond to each of the Auditor-General's recommendations. I am advised that significant work on implementing the recommendations has been achieved, with all recommendations contained in the first of four implementation phases, aimed to be completed by September 2023.

In addition, the commissioner is providing me with regular updates regarding the status of the implementation of each recommendation.

The Minister for Human Services has provided the following advice in relation to questions 2 and 3:

Changes to the Gaming Machines Act 1992 proclaimed on 1 August 2020 expanded the scope of the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund (GRF) to allow investment in prevention, early intervention, public education and gambling research in addition to therapeutic treatment and support. Under the reforms, Parliament committed an additional $1 million to the GRF.

Prior to operationalising the expanded GRF scope, the Department of Human Services (DHS) consulted with key stakeholders in the South Australian gambling environment and people with lived experience of gambling harm, reviewed existing data and academic literature, and examined the policy direction taken in other national and international jurisdictions.

The resulting Gambling Harm Minimisation Investment Plan 2021 to 2026 (the investment plan) describes clear goals for future GRF investment, prioritises strategic areas of focus, and identifies evidence-based, practice-informed opportunities to minimise gambling harm. The purpose of the investment plan is to guide government spending toward strategic priorities identified by stakeholders.

As a result of GRF investments, South Australians have access to information and/or support, including online counselling services through the 24/7 Gambling Helpline and the website Gambling Help Online.

Gambling help services are also physically located across 12 metropolitan and country regions. These services provide free and confidential therapy, counselling, assistance and support for individuals and families seeking face to face support. Services are also available that specialise in supporting individuals and communities who may be at higher risk of experiencing gambling harm, including culturally and linguistically diverse groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In addition to providing therapeutic support, gambling help services are responsible for working in community to raise awareness of gambling harms, reduce stigma, challenge attitudes and beliefs, and encourage early help seeking. Services are also expected to build strong working relationships with the gaming industry to improve their capability to assist people experiencing gambling harm and establish appropriate referral pathways. DHS provides a range of communication materials free of charge for use in gaming venues and gambling help services.

Most recently, DHS invested in a communication campaign that aims to disrupt the normalisation of betting in sport by reminding South Australians to be 'Here For The Game'. Professional sport clubs involved in 'Here For The Game' include Adelaide United Football Club, Adelaide 36ers, Adelaide Giants and the Adelaide Football Club (the Crows). The initiative is also supported by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation who will offer resources and education to amateur sport clubs modelled on the successful Good Sports program.

DHS recently released a Strategic Research Agenda which invests in research projects that build the evidence for what works to prevent and minimise gambling harm in South Australia and foster growth in the local gambling research community. The first funding round closed on 18 May 2023 and successful applicants are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

In 2022-23, the GRF budget was $8.6 million. The vast majority of GRF funds are invested by DHS in gambling help services, communication materials and gambling harm prevention and minimisation initiatives. Just over 10 per cent of the GRF supports staffing within the Office for Problem Gambling (OPG). This includes contract managers to manage the help service system and project officers who implement early intervention and prevention initiatives.

Table 1 – Indicative GRF Expenditure 2022-23 as at 6 June 2023

Activity Expenditure
Metropolitan and Country Gambling Help Services $2,857,000
Targeted Gambling Help Services $3,245,000
Gambling Help Online and Statewide Gambling Therapy Services $400,000
Early Intervention and Prevention Initiatives (Strategic Projects) $700,000
Staffing and Administration $1,070,000