SA-BEST seeks Parliamentary inquiry into gambling crisis gripping SA

28 June 2023

The economic and social impacts of the gambling crisis gripping South Australia need to be examined by a Parliamentary inquiry, SA-BEST believes. 

SA-BEST MLCs  Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo said the explosion of all forms of gambling – including poker machine gambling, sports betting and online gambling - in South Australia was having a significant economic and social impact throughout the community and its impacts needed to be thoroughly examined. 

They today called for a Select Committee to be established to investigate the damage being caused by the scourge of gambling in SA, which has cost South Australians more than $12 billion over the past 10 years. 

“Make no mistake, South Australia is in the midst of a gambling epidemic,” said Connie, SA-BEST’s and Gambling spokesperson. 

“Over the past decade, South Australians have lost more than $12 billion to gambling – and the losses are getting worse,” she said. 

“Last financial year South Australians lost a record $1.52 billion to gambling – more than $1000 for every man and woman in SA. 

“An estimated 10,000 South Australians participate in high-risk gambling while about 60% of losses are linked to gaming machines in our hotels and clubs. 

“Gambling activity generated $531 million in revenue for the state government in the 2012-2022 financial year – about 10% of state taxation revenue! 

“That figure is projected to increase to $582 million this financial year and a whopping $590 million by 2025/2026! 

“Yet despite all of these disastrous warning signs and statistics, successive state governments refuse to genuinely address the impacts of gambling in this state.

 “Some of these impacts are life-changing, and collectively these impacts cost our society tens of millions of dollars a year in medical and health costs.” 

To further strengthen their argument, Connie and Frank pointed to the Auditor General’s damning report tabled in Parliament last month on gaming harm minimisation which turned a blowtorch on the “complete lack of oversight and management” of gaming machine governance. 

Issues included: 

  • Gaming machine and wagering inspections do not effectively target higher risk licensees; 
  • Inspections have not been completed as planned; 
  • No formal training program for gambling compliance inspectors; 
  • The timing of some inspections is predictable and not scheduled to encourage year-round compliance; 
  • Data indicates almost 30% of gaming managers and employees have not completed mandated training requirements; 
  • No testing performed to ensure mandated harm minimisation attributes for gaming machines are operating as intended; 
  • Gaming venue system for detecting indicators of gambling harm not tested to confirm it is operating effectively; 
  • No evaluations performed to assess whether current regulatory approach is effectively minimising gambling harm, and; 
  • Recommendations from gambling industry inquiries and investigations not systematically assessed and monitored. 

Connie and Frank said the Federal Court action launched by AUSTRAC - Australia’s financial crimes lawsuit – alleging, among other things, that criminals laundered almost $4 billion at SkyCity Adelaide over the past six years was further evidence of the urgent need for a Parliamentary Inquiry. 

Frank said: “When are we as a Parliament going to get serious about the impacts of gambling? When are we as Elected Members going to get serious about the impacts of gambling. 

“When will enough be enough,” he said. 

“We know people have killed and/or seriously harmed themselves racked with the guilt of gambling and the impacts it has on their lives and those of their loved ones. 

“Marriages are being ruined due to gambling. Families are being ruined due to gambling. Kids are going hungry and missing out on the essentials because of excessive gambling. 

“Yet we have no real-time evidence of the extent of the problem, the cost to the community and the number of South Australians directly or indirectly impacted by the scourge of gambling. 

“That needs to end now. 

“If we are to make any meaningful reforms to our gambling regulatory regime then we need to take a forensic microscope to the underlying issues at the heart of the Auditor General’s report and the disturbing issues plaguing the casino.”

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