Un-Australian Gambling Reforms

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:
Apr/12/2011

Australian pokies reform continues to dominate Australian news headlines. The battle has only just began, with hand grenades, bombs and rocket launchers being unleashed on both sides of the debate. It's a hell of a war down under, with NSW looking to be the most dangerous and volatile war zone, followed by Canberra. Will Clubs Australia $20 million dollar public relations campaign do the trick, or is their another secret weapon lurking in the war chest? Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com and Gambling911 go into deep cover in the war zone this special report...

The Australian government's proposed gambling reforms are "simply un-Australian" and will wipe out shite loads of pubs and clubs... yeah, and pokie palaces Clubs Australia has gone on record with.

The lobby powerhouse $20 million advertising blitz against the reforms kicked in yesterday.

A focus on the reforms is the intro on smartcards and gambling limits.

"This license to punt will send pubs and clubs broke," president of Clubs Australia Peter Newell said during the campaign launch at a Sydney bowling club.

"(It) is quite simply un-Australian."

Australia's most well known (and possibly most hated polies), the anti-pokies polies Nick 'Mr X' (MM tag) Xenophon and Andrew 'Winning' (MM tag) Wilkie, who has threatened to remove his support for the Gillard government if a mandatory system isn't in place by 2014, say the ad campaign is based on a pack of lies.

"The industry is being dishonest," Wilkie told ABC Radio, adding the clubs' preferred voluntary limit system would have a very limited impact on problem gambling.

 Wilkie said given the option, the vast majority of poker machine players would opt for "low intensity" machines that limit gambling losses to $50 an hour.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon agreed.

"Every problem gambler affects the lives of seven others," he said, adding that the changes would not affect casual players.

"If you want to go for a casual punt, spend a few dollars, there is an alternative - low-intensity machines - you won't need a smart card."

The outspoken Senator said 600,000 people play pokies on weekly basis and 100,000 of them have a significant problem while another 200,000 are at risk of developing a significant problem.

"Something like 40 per cent of revenue comes from problem gamblers. It's untenable to have any business and industry relying so heavily on the vulnerable and the addicted."

But NSW Tourism Minister George Souris has backed clubs, saying the pre-commitment scheme would cost jobs and lead to venue closures.

"To stay in power, Julia Gillard is prepared to sacrifice thousands of jobs, many food and entertainment outlets including for seniors, support for sport and community organisations in every part of NSW," he said in a statement.

Souris advised a mandatory pre-commitment system would drive punters underground or online, and not fix problem gambling.

A Media Man spokesperson said "There is already evidence building that underground gambling dens are being established in Sin City Sydney, as well as high stakes poker games happening in the suburbs. Online gambling websites offering casino, poker and other games are likely to only become more popular, as the Gillard government fails again to offer a comprehensive solution."

"It (is) in the interests of all concerned to ensure gambling remained regulated and if possible in licensed venues rather than either underground or on the internet, where it is certain the incidence of under-age and problem gambling would increase," Souris said.

MP Andrew Wilkie; It's The Man Against Machine...

The majority of the 5 folks down under who only occasionally play the pokies would not be affected by mandatory pre-commitment technology despite clubs' claims that it would ruin the industry. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie punched back at the clubs' campaign against the pokie reforms, accusing them of lying about the impact of the anti-gambling measures. Wilkie is due to finalise his draft recommendations this week, which will be circulated to the parliamentary committee into problem gambling, with a final report to be made public by the conclusion of April. It is believed Wilkie is leaning towards the Productivity Commission recommendations on introducing low-value cards for gaming machines and low-intensity machines to limit losses. Contrary to the clubs industry's claims that the reforms could cost up to $4 billion, the mandatory pre-commitment technology would only apply to 15% of the 500,000 people who play pokies more than once a week and were considered to be problem gamblers. Wilkie said he was more determined than ever to see his reforms through and was confident the Government would deliver on its promise to get legislation up next year. "I am being as open-minded about this as I can, but we will only get one shot at this," he said. "It's a once-in-a-generation reform. We need intelligent discussion about this. "What the clubs are suggesting about being a licence to gamble is an outright lie and the industry knows it." The future of the Gillard Government depends on its delivery of a promise to Wilkie on forming minority government to introduce mandatory pre-commitment technology to tackle problem gambling. Wilkie has already indicated that if the Government was to adopt a policy along the lines of the Productivity Commission's two key recommendations, then he would support it. It is estimated that more than $5 billion is lost by problem gamblers every year in Australia. Will Wilkie win or lose the Gillard Labor government the upcoming federal election? No need to answer. Check out the results in NSW about a month ago, and you'll figure it out Casino Jack!

Prime Minister Gillard Not A Fan Of Pokies...

Prime Minister Gillard, whose coalition government holds a fragile one-seat majority, said problem gambling caused "human misery" and should not be profited from. "I come from a part of Melbourne where we know what it's like to see people who put so much money into poker machines that they break the family budget, they can't feed the kids, they end up with their houses being repossessed by the bank," Gillard told reporters in Canberra. "People like to have a bet but I don't think they like to see their fellow Australians suffer, so it's the right thing to have an appropriate package to tackle problem gambling." Some 600,000 Australians - 4 % of the adult population -- are estimated to play pokies at least weekly, with about 95,000 classed as problem gamblers in a study published last year by the Productivity Commission. The commission recommended imposing voluntary loss limits to address the issue and Gillard promised to introduce such a scheme by 2014 as part of a deal with independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who is key to her grip on power. But the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs Australia hit back in their advertising campaign, arguing that the plan amounts to a "licence just so you can have a $5 punt" and will involve a loss of freedom and privacy. The clubs, which pay stiff state government charges to have the money-spinning machines, argue that they strongly contribute to communities and sporting organisations and would suffer terribly under the proposed changes. The Productivity Commission found that the pokies, a common staple of Australia's pubs, carried an especially high risk for problem gambling, which comes at enormous social cost. Aussies gambling losses totalled more than Aus$19 billion in 2008-2009, according to the commission, with each player an average of about Aus$1,500 out of pocket every year. Punters generally know that that chance of winning the big on i.e: a massive jackpot on a slot machine - in a pub or online, is about 1 in a million, but that doesn't stop the punters coming back for more. Aussies love to try their luck. Sure, spin to win, but know the odds, and have fun.

Greg Tingle is a Special Contributor to the Gambling911.com website and founder of the Media Man International firm

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