The Victorian Coalition Government is taking action to facilitate the transition of problem gambling services and community information provision ahead of the commencement of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation in mid-2012.
In recent weeks the Government has announced the appointment of an inaugural Chair and Deputy Chair as well as the election of three Members of Parliament to the board by a joint sitting of the Victorian Parliament.
Following consultation with the incoming Chair and Deputy Chair of the new Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (the Foundation), Minister for Gaming Michael O'Brien today announced the initial provision of $16.7 million for problem gambling research, counselling and treatment services in 2012/13. The funding will mean continuity of service for Gambler's Help clients through the transition to the Foundation, which will take responsibility for these services into the future.
This funding is part of the Foundation's record $37.5 million budget allocation in 2012/13.
Mr O'Brien also announced that the Responsible Gambling Advocacy Centre will conclude operations soon, with much of its work to be continued through the Foundation.
"The establishment of the Foundation is a landmark reform in responsible gambling policy and a key element of the Coalition Government's strategy to reduce the prevalence and severity of problem gambling in Victoria," Mr O'Brien said.
"To ensure a smooth transition and continuity of service to counselling clients, I have decided, after consultation with the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Foundation, to approve funding extensions for a range of important problem gambling counselling, treatment and research programs.
"The Foundation will be responsible for activities including early intervention, prevention and treatment of problem gambling, provision of problem gambling counselling services, commissioning research and conducting community education and information campaigns to support responsible gambling."
The inaugural Chair of the Foundation, Professor Bruce Singh AM, said he was looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.
"The establishment of the Foundation will mark the beginning of a new era of tackling problem gambling in Victoria," Professor Singh said.
The Foundation will be established through the transfer of a number of functions currently performed by the Minister for Gaming and the Department of Justice. The Foundation will undertake the provision of community information on responsible gambling via the Gambling Information Resource Office (GIRO), which will operate within the Foundation.
The GIRO will take over many of the functions currently performed by the Responsible Gambling Advocacy Centre (RGAC). Mr O'Brien said that as a consequence of the establishment of the Foundation and the GIRO, the operations of the RGAC would shortly conclude.
The RGAC was established by the previous government with funding proposed for three years until 30 June 2012. The Coalition Government provided RGAC's funding in 2011/12.
"With the establishment of the new Foundation, including the Gambling Information Resource Office to provide the community with information about gambling regulation and licence approval processes, the work of RGAC will conclude," Mr O'Brien said.
"I wish to thank the RGAC Board including the Chair Fiona McLeod, the CEO Penny Wilson and staff for their excellent work over the past three years. They have made a very significant contribution to promoting community understanding of gaming licensing processes and responsible gambling.
"RGAC has created an important basis upon which the new Foundation will build," said Mr O'Brien.
RGAC's two current full time non-executive staff have been offered roles in the new Foundation to assist with the establishment of the GIRO. The Chair of the Foundation said he was keen to see the GIRO fulfill its potential.
"I look forward to the establishment of the Gambling Information Resource Office within the Foundation so that we can build on the outstanding work the RGAC has undertaken, with our aim being to better educate the community about responsible gambling," Professor Singh said.
Anyone with concerns about their gambling or that of a friend or family member can access free and confidential advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858 or Gambling Help Online at www.gamblinghelponline.org.au