ALCOHOL AND POKER MACHINE REGULATION WEAKENED TO APPEASE POWERFUL LOBBY

The NSW government is about to undermine the regulatory structure that enforces laws about alcohol sales, electronic gaming machines and the casino, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant’s proposed restructure of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) (see http://j.mp/LiquorGamingReforms1015) would:

  • Strip ILGA of all of the staff that service its regulatory, enforcement and policy work. Instead the supposedly independent body would be reduced to just a board with all support services to be provided by a government department;
  • Allow merit appeals from ILGA decisions to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), providing clubs, pubs and bottle shop chains the opportunity to use expensive lawyers to overturn restrictions on poker machine entitlements or rejections of licence applications. NCAT is not a specialist jurisdiction for alcohol and gambling policies; and
  • Move compliance monitoring of the casino from ILGA to a government department.

(Further background information is available at: http://j.mp/ILGAchanges1015)

Dr Kaye said: “The Baird government has once again caved in to pressure from the pubs and clubs lobbies by opening the floodgates to more poker machines, more liquor outlets and longer trading hours.

“The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is being savagely punished because it exercised its independence to protect communities by limiting opportunities for excessive gambling and alcohol abuse.

“The industry might have been annoyed by the outcomes, but the Authority responded to the evidence of harm caused by high densities of liquor outlets and concentrations of poker machines in disadvantaged communities.

“Deputy Premier Troy Grant is turning the Authority into a toothless tiger by stripping it of staff who are free from political pressure. He is also subjecting its decisions to appeal before a non-expert tribunal.

“This is much more than just administrative changes to organisational structures and processes.

“A critical safeguard against problem gambling and alcohol abuse is about to be brought to heal.

“If this goes ahead, the Minister will be able to exercise influence over its decisions through pressure on staff and pubs and clubs will inevitably deploy expensive lawyers to overturn any determination they don’t like.

“Once again the lobby has its way with the NSW government and what little protections communities have against aggressive hotels or clubs are swept away.

“Compliance regulation at both the Star and Barangaroo casinos will no longer be in the hands of an independent authority.

“Instead, the Minister’s public servants will be in charge of monitoring conditions that are supposed to stop the spread or organised crime and money laundering.

“This is the next step in the industry’s push to a deregulated alcohol and gambling environment. They successfully destroyed the Licencing Court and now they are lining up to shackle its successor to ministerial influence and a non-expert tribunal.

“The lobby knows its members will have much more success with their push to expand when a politician can influence the outcome than at the hands of genuinely independent and evidence-based authority.

“The Greens will be moving to send the legislation off to an inquiry to fully expose the implications of this move.

“It will be up to Labor and the conservative crossbenches to show that they are not completely captured by the alcohol and gaming lobbies by voting with us to stop the destruction of the independent authority,” Dr Kaye said.

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