I’m very pleased to talk on the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Lottery Betting) Bill 2018 and I’m very pleased to talk in support of small business. So many small businesses exist in my electorate, particularly newsagents. We all know that one of the customs in Australia is to have a punt. That’s what Australians call it: having a punt. How often do you hear that, irrespective of whether it was on the battlefields of Gallipoli or the Western Front in World War I, the Birdcage at Flemington, the mounting yard at Royal Randwick or the two-up that we see at local RSLs on Anzac Day right around Australia? The colloquial phrase ‘betting on two lizards walking up a wall’ can generally be applied right around this great country. The Sydney Opera House, for instance, was funded by a lottery, and that’s going back many, many years.
Our traditional lotteries and Keno games are popular and are longstanding recreational gambling products. They are actually an important income stream for thousands and thousands of small businesses. I will stand up for small business in this House every chance I get. This includes our newsagents, pharmacies, pubs, RSLs and community clubs.
They provide millions of dollars in tax revenue to every state and territory in Australia and, as we know, help to fund important community services and infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, public transport and roads. Every time a customer buys a ticket in an official lottery draw, a percentage of the ticket price goes towards supporting community services.
Lotteries are also an important part of the income stream for local newsagencies and post office agencies. These are small businesses run by great local people, and they support our local communities all over the country. Whenever a community group, organisation or sporting club—even our service clubs and emergency services groups, which do such a great job—needs a sponsorship or prize for something they’re doing, perhaps a local raffle, where do they go in small communities? They go to those fantastic local small businesses like Broadwater News in Busselton; Minninup Forum Newsagency; Donnybrook Newsagency; Capel Newsagency; Dalyellup News and Lotteries; and the Centrepoint newsagencies. These are all places where you can buy a lottery pack, maybe for Mother’s Day, which is coming up, and where perhaps your grandmother or someone who loves scratchies goes, perhaps even lodging a set of numbers for a work Lotto syndicate. This is all part of what Australians do.
Official lotteries and keno games have been a part of the Australian product landscape in gambling for a long time and are well accepted and well understood by consumers. They know what they’re getting. They know what they’re buying and they make a conscious decision. In contrast, betting services like Lottoland are relatively new and less understood. They provide no benefits to the thousands of small business owners across Australia—those newsagencies—and no benefits to our local communities, particularly in rural and regional areas like my own.
Another issue with these forms of gambling is the light regulation that’s imposed on services. They can and do entice customers away from traditional lotteries, and this further impacts on the benefits to small businesses and the community more generally. Many Australians have voiced their concerns about these services. There are more than 4,000 newsagents and lottery retailers Australia-wide, and they depend on the sales of actual, real, well regulated lottery products. Those products can generate between 50 and sometimes 70 per cent of their income, so we’re not talking about a small proportion of their income stream. The viability of these businesses is really critical. Because of their online structure—Lottoland is based overseas, in Gibraltar, I understand—none of those Australia state or territory taxes are paid, unlike our real lotteries, which contribute over $1.1 billion each year. We see so many newsagencies that are part and parcel of that.
I’ve received a number of petitions signed by people in my electorate who are concerned about the impacts. I’ve got so many pages of petitions from people in my community who share the concerns. They want to be able to walk down to their local newsagency and buy their tickets or get their scratchie—whatever they choose to do—and they want those businesses to still be there for them. In particular, a lot of our senior citizens love going and having that quiet little dabble, often each week. Recently I was at Centrepoint newsagency. They’ve got a ‘lucky buddha’ with coins across him, and I saw the amount of people who were rubbing their Lotto tickets across the buddha because they wanted the luck that went with it. Of course, that is what happens in a small, local, community newsagency.
The government has listened to all of the people who have signed these petitions. It has listened very carefully. Last year, Minister Fifield raised these concerns with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory is so far the only jurisdiction to licence this form of lottery betting.
The Northern Territory government has responded by introducing what is only a partial prohibition on this lottery betting, and the implication of this is that the betting can’t be offered on Australian lotteries. This was a positive step, but the government believes stronger and more comprehensive action is required, which is what we see in this bill. And this bill, the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Lottery Betting) Bill 2018, will take decisive action. I can say to the newsagents who are watching and listening to this debate, those in my electorate in the south-west of Western Australia, that the government is taking decisive action. We understand your small business. We will amend the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 and prohibit the provision of lottery and keno betting services to Australians.
As I said previously, traditional lotteries are heavily regulated and pay a considerable amount of tax to all states and territories. For every lottery ticket sold in those newsagencies and outlets, up to 28 per cent is allocated to state and territory taxes. Not only does that support the regulatory oversight and government services; but nine per cent is paid to the agents for relevant sale costs and income requirements. That’s the heart and soul of these small businesses, and that’s what this bill is about as well. An estimated $1.1 billion in state and territory taxes in 2016-17 is what has been and is at risk, plus those small businesses that add so much to our small communities. Over $350 million is earned by those 4,000 newsagencies and official lottery agencies—the official lottery agencies—across Australia, from sales of an official lottery product. You’re buying a ticket, you’re buying a product, you’re buying a scratchie. Newsagents, as we know, actually rely on this to run their businesses. This is a big part of their business.
The additional keno services that are offered in clubs and hotels also help support community services and sporting initiatives. It can be, as we know with Lotterywest in Western Australia, that they support so many small community groups. I have seen on the number of times that I have gone to an event that one of the sponsors whose logo is on the sign, the pamphlet, the program or the advertising material is Lotterywest. This means they have contributed. I have seen how good that is and how important that is to so many groups and organisations. In Western Australia, Lotterywest support things such as supply costs, lease costs, administration and operating costs, travel costs and capital costs sometimes, depending on the project—all sorts of different projects. They want to make the community a better place. It’s the funding that comes from people buying official lottery products that funds this for small communities. So, any time this is diminished, the whole of our Australian community suffers. Everyone in this place would want to grow our communities and support our communities and know that when they buy that ticket that that’s exactly what they’re doing.
In direct comparison, lottery and keno betting services contribute significantly less tax and to only one jurisdiction in Australia. They don’t pay commissions to small businesses at all. They are domiciled in overseas tax havens and minimise their exposure to domestic regulation. It’s a deliberate decision. I understand that Lottoland has 650,000 Australian customers. So this is having a direct impact on each of our small businesses, our newsagencies. Lottoland doesn’t actually sell you a ticket; you’re betting on the outcome. This is really important. This will have an impact on Australian based lotteries. It certainly has an impact on small businesses. So this legislation is really important.
Lottery betting services aren’t required to comply with the guaranteed prize pool model. Instead their major prizes are covered by insurance policies, and that allows lottery betting service providers to offer bigger prizes, more frequently, which further impacts on the financial benefits of traditional lotteries. Those bigger prizes are used to entice new gamblers, who aren’t actually always aware of the difference between the two types of lottery products. They’re not even aware of the protections and the benefits to the community provided by the products that are offered through the newsagencies and official outlets.
This act will also minimise the scope of problem gambling in Australia by limiting the types of interactive gambling services to Australians. Lottery betting services allow customers to bet on the outcome of up to 25 lottery draws being conducted around the world each week with the promise of massive jackpots up to hundreds of millions, which can lead to even more problem gambling by at-risk people. This bill will prohibit the provision of lottery and keno betting services to customers physically present in Australia. It will also prohibit the betting on a contingency that may or may not happen in the course of the conduct of a lottery, to ensure that bets cannot be accepted on the outcome or any aspect of a lottery or keno draw. The Commonwealth is responsible for online gambling matters and is best placed to implement a national position in relation to lottery betting service in Australia. Nationally consistent laws in this area are important. The government has really responded to the concerns of the community and has acted accordingly.
These amendments will also enable ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, to enforce compliance, which is good; and to respond to any complaints about lottery betting services being provided by other Australian or international operators, which is good as well. The government recently expanded ACMA’s powers to take stronger action against the provision of illegal interactive gambling services to Australians.
Many Australians enjoy lotteries and keno as a recreational activity. If you go to a lot of clubs around the country you’ll see the screens, and if you go to newsagencies you’ll see the scratchies and the lotto signs. The government is absolutely committed to ensuring that online gambling takes place under a robust legislative framework with very strong consumer protections and within the boundaries of community standards. As I said when I started, I am always pleased to stand in this place and support Australian small businesses. They employ nearly half of Australians. Often those same newsagencies give young people their first job, and often they give people at a mature stage of their life potentially their last job. As small business, they are critical to the Australian economy and they’re critical to our small communities, and I am always going to stand up for small business, as this government does in this country. I commend this bill to the House.