Interactive Gambling Amendment (Lottery Betting) Bill 2018
House of Representatives, May 9 2018
Watch Matt's Speech
Mr KEOGH (Burt) (12:14): Deputy Speaker, I'm sure you and many others in this chamber and across Australia have seen ads on TV for Lottoland. It touts itself as the latest market disruptor, advertising jackpots in the hundreds of millions and even into the billions of dollars. It offers the US Powerball's prizes of over $1 billion, the EuroMillions's prizes of several hundred millions of dollars as well as our local lottos. However, it operates more like a bookmaker than a lottery, taking bets on the outcome of the numbers drawn. While large prizes can be won in lotteries, the chances of winning them are extremely slim. For example, and by comparison, you have a one-in-76 million chance of winning division 1 in the Australian Powerball. You are much more likely to be killed by lightning—that's a one-in-1.6 million chance—or die from a venomous bite or sting, which is a one-in-one million chance. It's even harder to be bitten by a shark, but that's another discussion. Even smaller prizes can be harder to win, with a one-in-110 chance that you'll win a division 8 prize in the Australian Powerball. The chances of winning the jackpot prize in an overseas lottery of this nature are miniscule, with the odds usually less than one in 250 million.
Lottoland and its like essentially exist in a gambling loophole here in Australia. On behalf of Australian consumers, small business and the entire community sector, Labor has long been on the record with concerns about the impact of these synthetic lotteries. These concerns prompted Labor to consult with a range of stakeholders for a period of time, including the newsagents' peak body in the lead-up to the launch of Lottoland's Gotta Go! campaign. I have consulted and engaged with my local newsagents in the electorate of Burt. In 2017 Labor also formally requested that the ACCC undertake an investigation into representations made by these companies that offer betting on lottery results, given the concerns that they may mislead or deceive consumers into believing that they are actually purchasing a lottery ticket or directly participating in the lottery that they describe. The ACCC said that it would undertake a continual review of developments and complaints in this area. Labor has maintained a watching brief over that time and we have seen some state and territory governments take their own steps to try and regulate or limit the way in which Lottoland and its like can operate within their jurisdictions. But the reality is that this area needs national regulation, and it is properly the place of the Commonwealth to implement a national ban through its powers in respect of online gambling.
Of course, we've had legislation on interactive gambling since 2001. That does allow online lottery draws, and it has traditionally been the case that there have been only a small number of those conducted each week—typically seven; maybe one a day. Now we've seen that lottery betting services allow consumers to bet on the outcome of up to 25 lottery draws being conducted around the world each week, with the promise of massive jackpots rising up into the hundreds of millions of dollars, which can lead to a problem with at-risk gamblers.
Lottoland seek to be a disrupter and they say that they engage as a competitor to some of our existing lottery providers. They have said that they will engage with the newsagent community to make sure that newsagents are looked after, but the reality could not be further from the truth. I'm sure everyone is aware that, in order to buy a lotto ticket, you go down to your local newsagent or your lotto kiosk. These are genuine, local, small businesses in our community, and they employ quite a few people. If we take away and undermine their opportunity to sell those tickets by allowing people the opportunity to participate in grossly misleading online synthetic lotteries, what will happen? Fewer people who want to purchase lotto tickets will go to their local lottery kiosk or newsagent to buy one there. And whilst they're not doing that, they probably won't buy the daily newspaper as well—they're probably already not doing that.
It will undermine not only that small business but the capacity for those small businesses to provide local jobs. We know that youth unemployment is high right now, particularly in Australia. In the electorate of Burt, in Perth's south-eastern suburbs, it is very high. In some areas youth unemployment is close to 20 per cent. These small businesses employ young people. They also provide jobs for some of the older unemployed people in our country who also find it difficult to find work. So why on earth would we want to undermine that? We don't. That's why Labor and I support this legislation.
Allowing these synthetic lotteries undermines the capacity of state governments to gain revenue and tax revenue from the lotteries that are already running on a domestic basis in this country. I have spent a long period of my life thus far working with the community sector, particularly in Western Australia. In Western Australia, Lotterywest is a huge provider of funding to our community sector, providing millions and millions of dollars in grants, big and small, for capital and seed funding and funding for test programs in the community sector. That funding is vital. The fundamental reason that I have great concern about these synthetic lotteries is that their existence robs Lotterywest and similar schemes around the country of the revenue that they need to enable them to provide those grants that our community sector relies on to be able to replace their computers, to buy a new van, to take disabled children to events around the local community, to provide funding to get a pro bono referral service off the ground in Western Australia—to do all manner of things. Those are but a few examples.
If we continue to allow these synthetic lotteries to exist, the revenue that is available to Lotterywest and to other lotteries around the country will continue to dwindle. Of course, that obligation will fall back in part onto the state and in part onto the Commonwealth, but, at the end of the day, government won't be able to meet that demand. We have set up a system where we have allowed gambling to occur through our lotteries because we gain a community benefit, and that has been a good thing. But allowing these sorts of synthetic lotteries to continue will completely undermine the basis of that system. As some have remarked, buying a lotto ticket is simply a non-tax-deductible way of giving to charity. We want to keep it that way. We want to make sure we protect that. That's why we're opposed, and why I am strongly opposed, to synthetic lotteries. It's why Labor and I are very happy to support this legislation to ban them. It's why I tabled a petition earlier this year from my local newsagents seeking to protect their businesses, protect the jobs of their employees and protect our local community sector to make sure that they are all secure going forward.
When I go back into the community, people often come to me and say, 'Why is it that the government and the opposition can never agree? Why are oppositions always opposing just for the sake of being in opposition?' I can tell you that this is actually a classic example of the opposite. Sometimes I think people regard that as happening too seldom. But the reality is that when good policy frameworks are put forward, when there is a good reason to legislate and when the government gets the legislation right—which doesn't always happen—we do agree. Here is an example where we do and of how we can come to the table and work together across the parliament to make sure that we have legislation that will not only work but provide a community benefit by making sure that we don't undermine small business, don't undermine people's opportunity to get a job and don't undermine our vital community sector within this country.
I know from my involvement with local community groups in my electorate and throughout the state of Western Australia that the grants that are available from revenue that we gain from our domestic lotteries are vital to ensuring that those community groups get support. They support our community as a whole, whether it's because we've got buses to transport people around the community, whether it's because we're able to provide grants to get a seed program off the ground, whether it's because we're able to provide the opportunity for new or upgraded computer software or computer hardware that's required—even just to make sure that you can get some accounting software for our local community groups; it can be that small—or whether it's through the provision of office space for some of our community groups to operate from, such as our local community lotteries houses throughout the state of Western Australia. All of this becomes undermined if we don't have protection for this system.
Some may say that this is nationalistic protectionism, but what it's actually about is protecting all of the things that are important for our community, at all different levels. It's important that we do that. I think it's excellent. I was very happy to see that the government has introduced this legislation, but of course also that Labor is agreeing to this legislation. As I said, newsagents and small business owners who employee people throughout our community come to my office in my electorate and go to state MPs with legitimate concerns. They're looking at what's happening. They're seeing the advertising that I spoke about when I rose. They are worried—legitimately worried—about the ongoing viability of their businesses. It becomes essential that we make sure that we protect them.
Often those on the other side like to say that Labor doesn't like small business and that we don't really care about jobs. This is a classic example of demonstrating the opposite. We, on our side of the chamber, always knew it was true. We are about supporting small business and we are about making sure that we not only protect jobs but create the opportunities for more jobs. This is legislation that we agreed to because it helps that in a vitally important way. That's why we support this legislation. We see the overarching community benefit, despite what some ideologues and economic global purists might say about it being a protectionist measure. At the end of the day, it's about making sure that we have the appropriate regulatory responses to make sure that we contain online gambling—full stop.
It's important that we protect those who are at risk with gambling, but it's also important that we protect small business, we protect jobs and we protect state revenues. I can tell you that, as a Western Australian, state revenues have been a huge problem in recent times. I can wax lyrical about that at another time. It's important that we protect the revenues for the states and it's important that we protect the revenues that provide the grants to allow our community organisations—our grassroots community organisations and our state-wide community organisations—to continue to do the great work in the communities across our country. I'll always stand up to make sure that occurs. That's why I'm very proud that Labor will support this bill.