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Proposed speech on the Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

On 20 March 2024, Queensland Parliament passed the Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. Due to the Government setting limits on debate, I didn't get an opportunity to speak on the Bill. The speech I would have delivered, if allowed time, is below. 

The Greens welcome any attempt to better regulate the state’s casino and gambling industry to reduce the enormous harms it inflicts on individuals, families and communities. So we are pleased to see the changes introduced by this Bill. 

But by focusing reforms on casinos, the government is failing to address the scourge of pokies in pubs, clubs and hotels, including in publicly owned venues, as well as online gambling products - both of which represent significant harm in our communities that must be prioritised for harm reduction strategies. 

Players cards and pre-commitment systems

I’ll turn my attention first to the introduction of mandatory carded play. Advocacy groups, and the Greens, have been calling for this for years.

The Bill provides that a regulation may require when and where player cards are to be used - the detail of whether this will include all casinos, and what kinds of activities will be covered is not yet known. We stand with the Alliance for Gambling Reform and call for player cards to be required at all casinos and for all activities involving gambling.

The use of player cards would in turn facilitate a mandatory pre-commitment system - the detail of which has also been left to regulations. We strongly support a robust implementation of that system for all gambling activities in all casinos, involving chosen and default time limits and loss limits, mandatory breaks based on time spent or where a limit is reached, caps on voluntary limits and limits on continuous gambling. The regulations should make full use of the options available under the Bill and implement limits that prioritise the health and social wellbeing of people without compromising for gambling industry interests and government revenue.

But there is an enormous omission in this bill. Advocacy around pre-commitment systems has largely been focused on pokies - and huge swathes of pokies outside of regulated casinos in Queensland will not be covered. 

There are over 1,000 venues with pokies machines in Queensland. Failure to implement the mandatory carded play and pre-commitment systems to all gambling products across all venues risks negating any of the benefits of these systems. People can just move from a regulated casino to another unregulated venue after reaching their time or loss limits.

Cashless casinos

The Bill also allows for regulations prescribing a maximum amount that a person can expend in cash transactions in a regulated casino within a 24 hour time period. 

We understand the intention is to limit cash-based gambling to $1,000 within a 24 hour period, but there is little explanation for how this will be monitored and enforced. Ultimately, continuing to allow the use of cash in casinos is a compromise that risks ongoing criminality and corruption within Queensland’s casinos. 

While harm minimisation research demonstrates that electronic payments, as opposed to cash, can actually lead to greater spending due to increased ease and reduced awareness of spending, that is not a reason to keep cash as an option. Instead, it means that all gambling activities must be subject to robust harm minimisation features that introduce friction by way of mandatory breaks and limits. These are not measures that can be done by halves.

Supervision levy

We’re pleased to see the introduction of a mandatory code of conduct for casino operators with corresponding offences, as well as the requirement for 5 yearly reviews of casino licences. 

We also support the introduction of a supervision levy with the intention of funding programs aimed at reducing gambling harm, as well as regulation and oversight of casinos in Queensland. This is long overdue and it is vital that the levy is set at an amount that properly reflects the level of public harm gambling causes. 

To put it in perspective, last year Queenslanders gave nearly $3 billion to pokies in one month, while the government spent around $300,000 on harm minimisation in three years. That means Queenslanders spent 1,000 times more money in one month on pokies, than the government spent in three years on harm minimisation programs.

What doesn’t the Bill do - pokies 

It would be remiss not to flag a few of the things that this Bill fails to do for casinos - like banning incentives including free food and drink, or addressing the risk that data and information collected by casino operators might be used for loyalty programs and targeted advertising. 

Of course, the biggest oversight here is the 43,000 individual pokies machines across Queensland’s clubs and hotels. In August 2023, Queenslanders lost over $426 million to gambling streams with over 70% of that lost on pokies - an enormous number of which operate outside of casinos. Since 2005, the losses associated with pokies have close to doubled, while other streams of gambling revenue have remained generally consistent. 

This is a missed opportunity. 

The State Government controls nearly all aspects of pokies regulation, including licensing and authorities to install machines. Across Brisbane City Council there is an estimated 2,029 poker machines in 26 Council-owned venues. That is one quarter of all pokies in Brisbane and around 700 more individual machines than are in the Treasury Casino. Every poker machine in a Council owned venue takes about $80,000 out of the pockets of local residents every year, and half of that is from people suffering gambling addiction. 

Evidence shows that proximity to local pokies venues is a key predictor of harmful losses to gambling addiction. Removing these machines, or at the bare minimum actually including them in the measures being proposed in this Bill, would result in an enormous reduction to the toll of gambling addiction. 

Residents should be able to attend their local community venues, to see live music, share a meal and a drink, and bring their kids, without having to be subjected to machines that are inherently designed to cause addiction. It is unacceptable that this Bill does nothing to target the greatest sources of gambling harm in our communities. 

Casino integrity 

The Gotterson review that informed this Bill was flawed from the start. Rather than attempting to address the harm caused by the gambling industry, its overriding objective was to “restore public confidence in casino operators” - presumably so the major parties can continue to take massive donations from the gambling lobby that leaches off our communities without any real consequence. 

It’s little wonder the government is moving to do something about casino criminality and corruption now, with the jewel in its gambling crown, Star Entertainment Group, the beneficiary of a 99 year lease handed over in a secret deal, facing a slew of inquiries and prosecutions. 

But it’s been almost 18 months since the review found that Star is unfit to hold a casino licence in Queensland, and yet this Labor Government is not only allowing them to continue operating, but has repeatedly deferred their licence suspension, protected them from having to release any details of their remediation plan, and endorsed their continued development of the Queens Wharf mega-casino. 

That project never should have been approved, but at the very least Labor should’ve cancelled Star’s licence. If they care about public confidence, they should release the details of deals with Star and consortium partners, including the casino licence, 99-year lease, community impact statement, consultation reports, cost-benefit analysis or business case, the probity checks. 

And while I welcome the LNP’s agreement that Star’s licence should be reviewed, I’d also call on them to return all donations from Star and stop taking political donations from all gambling companies if they want us to take them seriously on this. 


Because while we welcome these changes, this Bill is the bare minimum. It provides very little detail with almost no legislated commitments, and, more critically, it is limited only to casinos. 

For far too long, harm caused by gambling has been treated as a personal problem without due recognition for the fact that gambling activities are not addictive by accident but by deliberate design. Those experiencing harm are blamed while the casino operators, racing bosses, pubs and clubs, in partnership with their friends in government, reap enormous profits. This bill makes some positive steps to correct that, but nowhere near enough - especially until we genuinely tackle the scourge of pokies and their grave impacts on families and communities across this state.

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