The Productivity Commission Inquiry – what’s it all about?

What is the Productivity Commission?

The Productivity Commission is the government agency that advises the Australian Government on a wide range of economic and social issues of national importance. The Commission's focus is on ways of achieving a more productive economy which will result in higher living standards. Gambling is a major industry in the Australian economy and is an appropriate subject for the Productivity Commission.

The first Productivity Commission inquiry

This will be the second report of the Productivity Commission about gambling. The first report was made 10 years ago amid much media interest and controversy. At that time, the media and interest groups picked on certain issues and statements of interest to them and discussed them out of the context of the overall report. The controversy was unfortunate, as there were many very important and positive findings. The Productivity also looked at the range of responsible gambling initiatives including the BetSafe program, and said:

BetSafe, an initiative of a number of large New South Wales clubs, represents the most thorough and coherent approach of its kind.

Much has happened since the first Productivity Commission inquiry, and there have been many developments in relation to gambling. BetSafe has enlarged and improved its responsible gambling program in response to research findings and legislative developments.

The second Productivity Commission inquiry

The current Productivity Commission inquiry was announced at a time when gambling was again the focus of great media attention. In announcing the inquiry, the Hon. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs said:

Problem gambling wrecks lives. For people who are addicted, gambling is a dangerous, damaging drug that hurts, not just gamblers, but also family, friends and workplaces. The Government is determined to tackle problem gambling. That's why the Government has re-convened the Ministerial Council on Gaming and requested an update to the Productivity Commission's 1999 problem gambling inquiry.

The government was wise to commission this inquiry, as it will enable the government to shape policy and legislation relying on facts rather than emotions. Problem gambling is the most important issue to be addressed by the inquiry, and will be considered in the context of the wider context of the recreational gambling market.

The Productivity Commission will be able to investigate the many changes to the gambling environment over the last decade, including the growth of internet and sports betting, significant responsible gambling measures, changes to taxation, smoking restrictions and more.

What will be investigated?

A number of key areas for consideration include changes to gaming industry structure gambling regulation, the impact of the BetFair case, indigenous gambling, problem gambling treatment and harm minimisation.

The general areas of the inquiry are:

  • the nature and definition of gambling. This will include a consideration of whether poker is really a form of gambling, or just a game of skill
  • the participation profile of gambling, including problem gamblers and those at risk of problem gambling. The Commission will consider whether the prevalence of problem gambling has fallen in the past decade
  • the economic impacts of the gambling industries, including industry size, growth, employment, organisation and interrelationships with other industries, such as tourism, leisure, other entertainment and retailing
  • the social impacts of the gambling industries, the incidence of gambling abuse and the cost and nature of welfare support services necessary to address it
  • the contribution of gambling revenue on community development activity and employment
  • the effects of the regulatory structures - including licensing arrangements, entry and advertising restrictions, application of the mutuality principle and differing taxation arrangements - governing the gambling industries, including the implications of differing approaches for industry development and consumers
  • the implications of new technologies (such as the Internet), including the effect on traditional government controls on the gambling industries
  • the impact of gambling on Commonwealth, State and Territory budgets
  • the impact that the introduction of harm minimisation measures at gambling venues has had on the prevalence of problem gambling and on those at risk

What is the Commission doing?

The Commission is conducting visits to industry groups, gambling venues, counselling services and federal and state/territory government agencies. Commissioners have also met with government, industry, consumer representatives and researchers. Over 100 written submissions have been received by the Commission. These can be downloaded from the Commission's website.

What is BetSafe doing?

BetSafe has made a detailed written submission to the Productivity Commission. The BetSafe submission provides a detailed explanation of the BetSafe program, under the following headings:

  1. The BetSafe Program
  2. Gambling in Australia
  3. Gaming Machines
  4. Staff training
  5. Problem Gambling
  6. Problem Gambling counselling
  7. Exclusion
  8. Responsible Gambling Measures
  9. Government regulation
  10. Internet Gambling
  11. Recommendations

Detailed information is provided in the appendices to the submission about the extent of the BetSafe program and the significant work that has been done in relation to key areas such as training, incident responses, self-exclusions, counselling and staff training.

What will happen next?

The Commission has set the following timetable:

  • 24 November 2008 - Inquiry announced
  • 31 March 2009 - Written submissions lodged
  • July/August 2009 - Draft Report
  • September/October 2009 - Public Hearings
  • 24 November 2009 - Final Report to Government

More information is located at the Productivity Commission's website

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