Gaming And Betting (Amendment) Bill
GAMING AND BETTING (AMENDMENT) BILL
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [5.29]: I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
That this bill be now read a second time.
In examining the alternatives for raising funds for Sydney's bid to host the year 2000 Olympic Games, one option put forward was the staging of a number of special race meetings on Sundays with the Government's share of revenue from the meetings being directed to the bid.
This proposal has received widespread support throughout the racing industry with a number of clubs of the three racing codes expressing an interest in staging Sunday meetings.
However, unlike the position in the majority of other States and Territories of Australia and in many overseas countries, Sunday racing is prohibited in this State under the provisions of the Gaming and Betting Act.
The bill before the House will amend the Act to allow for the conduct of a limited number of Sunday meetings over the next two years.
The Minister stressed that the legislation in no way provides for a general relaxation of the current restrictions on Sunday racing. It specifically provides that race meetings may only be held on a maximum of eight Sundays during the period 1st January, 1992 to 31st December, 1993.
The proposal revolves around the staging of four Sunday race meetings each by the two metropolitan galloping clubs, namely the Australian Jockey Club and the Sydney Turf Club. Other clubs of the three codes of racing may then apply to conduct Sunday race meetings to coincide with those meetings.
The bill provides that the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing is responsible for determining the dates on which the eight Sunday meetings may be held, the clubs which may conduct meetings and those racecourses on which the meetings may be held.
This initiative is seen as an excellent means of raising funds towards the Olympic bid. In this regard, based on the premise of one metropolitan galloping meeting, one provincial or country harness racing meeting, one provincial or country greyhound racing meeting and minimal interstate meetings being conducted on each of the Sundays, it has been estimated that in the order of $8 million will be raised.
Through its support for this initiative, the racing industry in New South Wales has again demonstrated its willingness to contribute to the community in general.
No doubt honourable members will recall that following an approach to the industry by the former Minister for Racing, the Hon. Bob Rowland Smith, the major clubs of the three codes of racing staged race meetings during 1990 to raise money for the Nyngan flood victims and, as a result of this initiative, in excess of $600,000 was raised for the residents of Nyngan.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [5.31]: I seek leave to have my response incorporated in Hansard.
Should the current bid for the year 2000 Olympic Games prove to be successful then the benefits accruing to New South Wales will be significant. With that in mind, the Minister is confident that the overwhelming majority of the State's citizens would be fully supportive of this proposal.
This bill is designed to raise money towards the Sydney Olympic 2000 bid.
At present under the Gaming and Betting Act 1912, race-meetings for horse, greyhound or harness racing throughout the State may not be held on Sundays. The bill amends the Act to allow for race-meetings to be held on no more than eight Sundays during the period commencing 1st January, 1992 and ending 31st December, 1993. The dates and places where these Sunday race-meetings are to be held will be determined by the Minister.
The bill requires the Minister to calculate and notify the Treasurer of the amount of public revenue raised from Sunday race-meetings held in accordance with the bill. Appropriation of money for the purpose of the Sydney Olympic 2000 bid is subject to the usual parliamentary appropriation process.
Various options have been put forward for the raising of the necessary finance to fund Sydney's bid to hold the Olympic Games in the year 2000. One option which has been advanced involves the conduct of a number of Sunday race-meetings with revenue which would otherwise accrue to the consolidated fund from the operations of on and off-course totalizators and bookmakers being directed towards the bid.
Unlike the position in the majority of other States and Territories of Australia and in many other countries throughout the world where Sunday racing is legal, the conduct of Sunday race meetings in New South Wales is prohibited under the provisions of section 53 of the Gaming and Betting Act, 1912.
Although tentative approaches have been made from time to time by several clubs seeking the lifting of the restrictions on Sunday racing, successive Governments, Labor and Coalition, have indicated that they were not willing to take this action. At the same time, it has never been an issue of major consequence.
In pursuance of the current proposal, discussions have been held with various racing clubs and industry bodies and with one exception there would appear to be significant support from within the industry for the concept. In fact, a great number of clubs have already expressed interest in holding Sunday race-meetings.
The Australian Jockey Club, in its dual role as controlling authority for the galloping industry and as the racing club which conducts race meetings at Randwick and Warwick Farm, has in the past expressed reservations about holding Sunday race meetings. That concern no longer exists and they support the legislation.
On the other hand, the Sydney Turf Club which holds race-meetings at Rosehill and Canterbury and which has for a long time supported the concept of Sunday racing, has indicated that it is favourably disposed to the proposal.
Rather than transferring existing meetings to suitable Sunday dates, it is proposed that additional meetings be granted to the metropolitan racing clubs to enable them to gain maximum benefit from the proposal. At the present time, the maximum number of days on which meetings for horse racing may be conducted on the metropolitan racecourses is prescribed in the fourth schedule to the Act. Provision does exist, however, for the Governor to issue a proclamation increasing those numbers.
In addition to the metropolitan galloping meetings, it may also be appropriate for approval to be given to other New South Wales galloping, harness racing and greyhound racing clubs to hold complementary meetings, thereby assisting with the overall viability of the venture and the maximising of revenue.
Naturally, there would be a requirement for the TAB to operate on the days in question and provide a full off-course betting service. At the present time, there is no legislative provision prohibiting the TAB from operating on Sundays and the TAB has indicated that its operations would not be affected by industrial difficulties as all applicable agreements contain special conditions for Sunday work. The TAB would, however, need to reach an agreement with its various agents over the payment of appropriate fees and may need to make special arrangements with some local councils regarding the opening of agencies on Sundays.
On the basis of one metropolitan galloping meeting, one provincial or country harness racing meeting, one provincial or country greyhound racing meeting and minimal interstate coverage on each of the eight Sundays, it has been estimated that off-course totalizator turnover would approximate $76 million. In addition, it can be expected that a further $15 million would be generated from on-course totalizator operations. This would result in an amount of $7.35 million being raised for the bid, with a further $500,000 being generated from the operation of bookmakers, taking the total to $7.85 million - say $8 million. In addition, the TAB has estimated that its operations will generate additional profits for the racing industry of the order of $3 million.
These figures would increase significantly should a decision be taken by interstate authorities to conduct metropolitan galloping meetings in other States or Territories to coincide with the Sydney meetings.
While there may be some objections to the proposal from certain church groups, it is felt that the overwhelming majority of citizens would be supportive of the proposal, particularly in view of benefits which would accrue to the State should the games bid be successful. Additionally, it should be pointed out that most other recreation and recreation and leisure pursuits are available on Sundays, including poker machines, Club Keno and the sale of lottery and Lotto tickets.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.31]: Our concern with the Gaming and Betting (Amendment) Bill is race-meetings being held on Sundays. At present, under the Gaming and Betting Act 1912, race-meetings for horses and greyhounds and harness racing throughout the State may not be held on Sundays. This bill amends the Act to allow for race-meetings to be held on eight Sundays during the period commencing on 1st January, 1992, and ending on 31st December, 1993. The dates and places where the Sunday race-meetings are to be held will be determined by the Minister. The purpose of allowing Sunday race-meetings is described as allowing for fund raising for the Sydney Olympic 2000 bid. The sugar coating on the pill is that race-meetings become a means of fund raising. It is a pity that the Government feels it necessary to do that. All of us are strongly in favour of the Sydney Olympic bid. There is no question about that. I look forward to seeing the Olympic Games held in Sydney, which is the best location in the world for the Olympic Games to be held in 2000 A.D. But it is a pity that the Government links allowing horse racing on Sundays with this bid. I would be interested to know whether the Government bothered to consult with church leaders in this State or the Council of Churches in New South Wales, which takes a very deep interest in matters relating to gambling, including horse racing.
Through this legislation the Government intends to introduce the staging of four Sunday race-meetings each by the two metropolitan galloping clubs, namely, the Australian Jockey Club and the Sydney Turf Club. Other clubs of the three codes may then apply to conduct Sunday race-meetings to coincide with those meetings. Obviously the Government sees this as an easy way to raise income. One estimate that has been mentioned is in the order of $8 million. That can occur only if people are encouraged to go to the races on a Sunday. I know that Sunday observance has gradually been whittled away over past years, with more and more activity taking place on Sunday. Originally there was only amateur sport; gradually professional sports were introduced; and then major finals of rugby league and so on were introduced. The Government has a responsibility to do all it can, in spite of those inroads over the years, to treat Sunday as a special day and to put it in a special category, a day of worship for people of all denominations - Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian and so on - and a day for families to get together.
Many people involved in the racing industry will be working to stage racing events on these eight Sundays. The situation of people working in hospitals and the Police Service, ambulance drivers and others who provide vital community and health services is different. That cannot be paralleled with race-meetings. We have already heard of the Government's attitude in relation to the two casino proposals. They are supposedly just to raise revenue. Some casino money might be used to help gamblers with an addiction. I also call that the sugar coating on the pill. Obviously the Government is trying to make these proposals more attractive. The question is: which came first - the chicken or the egg? Did people want to have Sunday racing and the Government said it would make it more attractive by linking it to the Sydney Olympic bid, or did someone genuinely come to this conclusion in an attempt to fund the Sydney Olympic bid? We will probably never know. In principle, we oppose the Gaming and Betting (Amendment) Bill and believe that there has not been sufficient community consultation or discussion. It is the thin end of the wedge. First there will be eight Sundays of racing. Then people will ask why it is only eight out of 52 and Sundays will
become like other racing days during the week. Totalizator Agency Board agencies will have to be opened on Sundays - on and on it goes. For those reasons we oppose the bill.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [5.38], in reply: I thank Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for their contributions. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile outlined his opposition to the bill. The Government believes that this bill is in the interests of the wider community of New South Wales. This bill is designed to assist the year 2000 Olympic bid, which I know Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile supports. I take on board his comments and commend the bill to the House.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
It is not proposed that the amendments provide for a complete relaxation of the current restrictions on Sunday racing. Instead, it is suggested that the legislation be quite specific in restricting the number of Sundays to a maximum of eight between 1st January, 1992 and 31st December, 1993. The legislation should provide authority for the Minister to determine the dates on which Sunday race meetings may be held and the racing clubs which may conduct same.
Revd F. J. Nile
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.