POLITICS

Gambling Reform Is Back On The Table, Thanks To The Close Parliament

Nick Xenophon quick to wield his newfound power.

14/07/2016 12:10 PM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:57
Fairfax Media
Gambling reform will be a live issue in the next parliament

South Australian Senate powerbroker Nick Xenophon is already flexing his newfound political muscle, announcing a major push for substantial reform to the gambling industry.

A razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives and a bunch of crossbenchers in the Senate means that the government will have to do a lot of negotiating to get much done in the next parliament, and gives those crossbenchers some strong bargaining power.

It is likely that the government will get about 30 senators, and that there will be about 10 crossbenchers. With 39 votes needed to pass legislation, Malcolm Turnbull will need the support of Labor or the Greens, or nine of the ten crossbenchers. So those minor parties suddenly hold a lot of power.

Xenophon has been a longtime supporter of reform to the gambling industry, but with his Nick Xenophon Team winning three Senate spots, he now has much more power to force some action. He teamed up with fellow gambling reform advocate, Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, on Thursday to announce that he would be placing the issue back on the agenda. As Fairfax Media reported, that includes plans to limit the maximum bet on poker machines to $1.

"This is an issue that will not go away where there are 400,000 people with a severe gambling addiction or well on the way to getting one. We are here to say that we will be planning a whole series of measures, both in the Parliament and outside the Parliament to deal with the issue of gambling reform," Xenophon said.

Another major part of the push will be to address the proliferation of sport betting advertising.

"So many parents have approached all of us to say they are appalled their seven and eight and ten-year-old children are talking about the odds of a game rather than the game itself," Xenophon said.

"There is a specific exemption that applies to gambling ads during sports broadcasts which is an anomaly and that loophole needs to be shut down in accordance with overwhelming community sentiment in relation to this."

Getty
Sports betting advertising, like that for bookmaker William Hill shown here, is in the firing line

Wilkie said it was a "sorry tale" that "modest" gambling reforms in 2010 had been quickly undone. He outlined further ambitions, including re-establishing a committee on gambling reform, banning gambling ads during hours when children were watching television, and the $1 maximum pokies bet.

"The case is compelling and it is very sad that up until now, parliamentarians have not seemed to care enough about the hurt caused by problem gambling, that parliamentarians have been happy to be completely out of step with the vast majority of the members of the community who want strong reform," he said.

The Greens have previously pushed for banning gambling ads during sport telecasts, and Xenophon said on Thursday he had discussed working together with the party's leader Richard Di Natale.

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