GAMBLING REGULATION AMENDMENT (WAGERING AND BETTING TAX) BILL 2021

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:52): I also rise to speak on the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Wagering and Betting Tax) Bill 2021. I thank all previous members for their contributions. It is wonderful to see that the opposition will not be opposing this bill and that we have some bipartisanship—that is good.

This bill amends the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, and its prime and—as the member for Burwood said—very short contents will increase the rate of the wagering and betting tax from 8 per cent to 10 per cent from 1 July 2021. This change will support an increase in the point-of-consumption tax payment to the Victorian racing industry from 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent of the net wagering revenue, helping bridge the existing funding gap between the New South Wales and Victorian racing industries. This rate change will result in annual Victorian racing industry payments increasing by about $47.6 million to $83.3 million in 2021–22.

As other members have mentioned, racing is part of the culture of, I guess, being a Victorian. I am fairly sure we are the only state that has a public holiday for a horse race, and I think in general we all look forward to Melbourne Cup Day. I note the member for Burwood was talking about Oaks Day, which is a great day also—Ladies Day—but for most of us Melbourne Cup Day is the day that stops the nation, as they say, and one where everyone from the young to the old have a bit of a sweep or might have a barbecue and enjoy the day. For those that go to the races, obviously it is fantastic as well. The trains are usually full, and a lot of merriment is involved. So supporting our racing industry is supporting what we know as being Victorian.

My family has a little bit of experience in the racing industry. David Fregon was a trainer. I think his most popular horse was Island Spy, who won a couple. But racing comes into all of our lives. I can think of just a few weeks ago I was at the Mount Waverley Reserve. Waverley Blues were playing a home game.

We got to the half-time break, and all of a sudden everyone stopped and put on a race on the TV and everyone stopped and watched the race. There was a horse by the name of Explosive Jack that won that race. That was at group 1. There was a lot of excitement in the room. It turns out there were a number of part-owners in the room, and there was a lot of goodwill to be had for them. So to Dilmah and the others, you seem to be on a winner there, and I think they have had some success since then as well. So it really does permeate through our communities.

This increase in revenue will encourage the ongoing investment in an industry that injects an estimated $4.3 billion annually into Victoria’s economy and sustains more than 33 000 full-time equivalent jobs. In regional Victoria more than 100 clubs support over 9700 full-time equivalent jobs and provide an estimated $1.15 billion annually, if you do not mind, in economic value, making it a significantly valued sector.

Gambling as such is a part of our life, and obviously we regulate that. I can remember growing up, my grandpa would sit there with the paper in front of him, and he would be ringing up the tote or the TAB. I can remember my father had a phone account, as you do. I can still probably remember the account number is such and such and such. I will not say the number, because it might be still be valid. So a lot of us grow up with family members who have a bit of a flutter, and there is nothing wrong with that. Obviously when that becomes more than just having a flutter, then it starts to become a problem, so as a state that is why we invest in reducing gambling harm.

I have mentioned in this house before I guess a hobbyhorse of mine, which is gambling-like behaviour in computer games, and I note that even a number of weeks ago the Four Corners program on gaming with online transactions and loot boxes was I think a really good exposé on that side of an industry which maybe not many know about. Technology tends to run ahead of legislation, of regulation, and that is probably pretty standard in most areas of technology. I have been talking to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation and her office about my concerns about gambling-like behaviour in computer games, and I am very pleased to know that she has reached out to the federal minister in this area to try and get some feedback on what they will be doing as a federal government, given it is their jurisdiction for that. They have had a number of reports, as I have said in this house before, and it is a concerning part of this industry. It is a huge industry.

When we talk about the point-of-consumption tax, it is probably difficult, as I accept, to classify gambling-like behaviour or loot boxes as gambling. I appreciate that there are complexities there because there is no actual money reward. It is not like a poker machine. It is not like the horseraces. It is somewhat removed, so I can understand there are complexities. I can understand it may take some time to work out what is gambling and what is not gambling, but I do think that is something as a country we need to look at and we need to classify, especially when these things are available in games that are open to seven-year-olds or 10-year-olds or 15-year-olds who can potentially be earning their own money and have their own debit card and their parents do not know. I guess I put it to you that, when I read the Victorian gambling legislation and the definition of ‘gambling’ and I look at at least some of the aspects of loot boxes that are available in G-rated games, I do not see the difference. There may not be actual currency coming back, but there are things of value. There is a risk-reward of differing value depending on the money you put in.

I make the argument that they are very similar. So if we are looking at a point-of-consumption tax, which I support—and I note that we all in this house seem to support it, which is great—and we are looking at the point of that tax, which this government brought in to get some revenue from where the transactions are happening, that is, in Victoria, and we are looking at companies the likes of, I would imagine, Bet365, Ladbrokes, PointsBet and Sportsbet, all those sorts of companies are the ones that are contributing to the Anzac Day Proceeds Fund and the Hospitals and Charities Fund. This is a good thing. So I guess I ask the question: if the point is to take revenue at the point of consumption, which is what this tax that we are talking about today is for, and if loot boxes, some or any, are potentially the same as gambling under our own definitions, then I would argue that we should probably be taking that same point-of-consumption tax from companies like Electronic Arts, Bethesda and Blizzard. Now, I appreciate the complexities also. These are multinational companies. How do we do that? Maybe that is not simple. But I think it is something that we need to consider going forward, because this market in computer games is already bigger than Hollywood. It is a huge market. The method of loot boxes is a way of making money, and they make a lot of money. So we need to help where we can.