Australian Government VS Clubs NSW: Pokie War

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:

Happy New Year, even including you guys at the Australian government. The Aussie government, reeling from media reports that Australian clubs are fighting back on the Big Brother type regulation like "biometrics" and finger printing, is now fighting back putting some of their own PR into cyberspace and trying to get Australian newspapers to print their side of the story. Media Man and Gambling911 with the Aussie Clubs VS The Aussie Government; news, PR or both.... you be the judge...

The war of words and paperwork over the federal government's proposed pokies revamp reforms has heated up, with the so called "independent" Nick Xenophon accusing Clubs NSW of waging a campaign of "fiction and fear" that has left NSW the worst informed state about the issue.

But, the word on the street of 'Sin City' Sydney is that the people hate being told what to think, what to do, and especially when it comes to their entertainment dollar and mattes or privacy. Labor has previously tried to get into people's bedrooms with in depth questions about sex and living arrangements on Government Censorship paperwork, along with paperwork being throw as pensions and others getting welfare, doing it a bit tougher than most. Yeah, Australia's big brother is on the nose, seemingly even worse that Ex PM Kevin Rudd was a few years ago. In addition, over the past 12 months Labor has lost about a dozen MP's, having to resign about things including sexual misconduct, porn visits in working hours, and even gambling at work!!! So, who is addicted now hey? Not good!

Senator Xenophon and teammate independent MP Andrew Wilkie, have begun a national consultation process on the reforms, agreed to by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in return for Wilkie helping Labor form a minority government. Their agenda driven spin campaign has upset many other independent MP's, including also the Labor and Liberal Party. Yeah, they appear to be walking on very thin ice and insiders tip their days may numbered, having the radical and fanatical views they do, being out of touch with real Australians, be it Bondi Beach or the Western Suburbs of Sydney.

Their agenda reform proposals include but are not limited to forcing gamblers to decide how much they are willing to lose, known commonly as "mandatory pre-commitment", and a $250 buck withdrawal limit from ATMs in pokie venues. The PM has drawn a line in the sand and given the Aussie States until May 31 to agree to the changes... or else! Forced by law is the spin being thrown around.

But the independent MPs keep getting hostile receptions at clubs, including recently at Narrabri this month when they were called '"fanatics" by angry club patrons and supporters et al.

"As I travel the country, the only state where people seem uniformly misinformed about what the changes will mean is NSW, and that's not the people's fault," Senator Xenophon has gone on record with. Many insiders think its complete spin. "Clubs NSW has been deliberately misleading its members with misinformation. It's not hard to stir up people if you are willing to feed them fiction and fear."

His comments coincide with the launch of a "'personal campaign" by the gambling reform activist Paul Bendat, who works closely with Senator Xenophon. Bendat, who runs the Pokie Act website has prepared full-page newspaper advertisements to run in the Illawarra Mercury targeting the chairman of Clubs NSW, Peter Newell. Could they be doing their own fear and spin techniques? If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, you can pretty much pick what it is, so the story goes.

Newell happens to be the prez of Clubs Australia, chairman of the Steelers Club in Wollongong and a former newspaper editor, so he's a pretty clever cookie.

The adverts resemble those taken out by Clubs NSW during its campaign against increases to poker machine taxes under the ex NSW treasurer Michael Egan.

The ads say Newell "should be telling his members these truths about pokie gambling pre-commitment". Bendat reckons that gamblers will not be tracked under the new system, that casual gamblers, such as interstate or international visitors, will not have to sign up, and implementation could cost clubs as little as $1.50 a day per machine.

The issues, including the likely prospect that gamblers might be fingerprinted, have been raised by the clubs movement. There's also the "biometrics" which are fairly effective to ID people, reminding many of the doomed 'Australia Card' Big Brother proposal that was tabled about 15 years ago. It was a PR disaster for the government of the day.

But Newell described the advertisements as "ridiculous" and advised it was obvious Senator Xenophon and Wilkie were losing the war on "mandatory commitment technology".

"I'm amazed they think such a tactic would intimidate me or the industry," he said.

Newell said the MPs had begun amending their "on-the-run agreement" as the public learnt more about the proposal.

"It seems neither man actually wants to explain how mandatory commitment will work, what it will cost the industry and what impact it will have on problem gambling rates. The Australian public deserve answers to these questions before having the technology forced upon them."

The NSW government opposes mandatory pre-commitment. The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said yesterday he favoured a voluntary system, setting up a fight, albeit written, verbal, and via news media with PM Gillard if the Coalition wins power in March. "What's important for poker machines … is to focus on those people who have a problem," he said.

At the moment the Australian government has a substantial PR problem, having being caught out lying to the Australian public on everything from gambling to the environment, to government porn scandals. They mad their bed, and now they are sleeping in it.

Australian Clubs Declare Pokies War On Australian Governments; Will Be Bigger Than Aussie Mining Companies VS Aussie Government War...

Australian Gambling reform could overshadow the mining tax as a political nightmare for the Gillard lead Labor government next year. The all mighty licensed clubs lobby is getting ready for a very public slaughter campaign against compulsory "pre-commitment" tech on pokies, unless the government backs of. Yep maties, its man VS machine. The hi tech which would link 200,000 poker machines across the great nation of Australia and in effect force all players to place a limit on how much they gamble...was a condition Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie placed on support for the minority Labor government. Many political and media commentators say it was a form of blackmail, but Gillard needed the vote, so didn't have much choice, if you follow us. Now in a new development that will make it even more of a pain in the ass for Gillard to deliver on her forced promise to have the new tech up and running by Wilkie's 2014 deadline, the Coalition government has declared it will support voluntary pre-commitment only.

A Media Man insider jokes "It's the commitment you have when you're not having a commitment", in reference to a famous beer add that went "It's the beer you have when you're not having a beer".

The art of war tactic will put pressure directly on Wilkie's fellow independent MPs who have been supporting the minority government, Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott and New England MP Tony Windsor, both of whom represent New South Wales regional seats with high levels of licensed club membership and participation. Oh dear, there goes the election Labor. Ok, close, but you have just smell the downfall of Labor already. The Coalition has tactically not formally declared its hand on the pokie reforms (yet), but it shouldn't be long now. Murdoch owned News Limited news hounds have now obtained a letter from Parkes MP Mark Coultan to a constituent setting out Coalition policy in black and white for the first time. "We support voluntary pre-commitment programs," Coultan writes. "Some gaming venues already have in place voluntary pre-commitment programs, and we would like to see these extended to other gaming venues. The Coalition wants schemes to be in place to help problem gamblers. However, we believe that any response to gambling must recognise that many Australians gamble responsibly. It is also important to recognise that many Australians rely on the sector for jobs. Heavy-handed government regulation may not be the best response to problem gambling." Industry reps claim that pre-commitment technology using smart-cards would cost clubs roughly $5000 a pokie to install and could lead to a 30% drop in pokie profits during the first year. The Prime Minister has said she will legislate the changes by 2012 if the states do not move before then...something not even one of the states, which rely heavily on gambling taxes, has shown a willingness to do in the slightest. Licensed clubs have been passionately lobbying Oakeshott and Windsor, along with Labor MPs across Oz, many of whom are understood to be pretty pissed off at Gillard's promise to Wilkie that jettisoned an earlier undertaking made to the clubs. ClubsAustralia chief executive Anthony Ball advised the industry was giving the government until May to back down, or face the power and mighty force of the industry in a public campaign along the lines of the one spear headed earlier this year by mining companies. "Clubs, hotels and casinos are a large industry and employ hundreds of thousands of Australians," he said. "I don't think people are going to be prepared to let this through. "The Coalition is echoing what most people are saying about this issue...that voluntary pre-commitment can be a useful way to help gamblers set and stick to limits. The government went from supporting a sensible position on this issue in late June to supporting a licence to play poker machines in late August." Oakeshott went on record to News Limited with, "I have met with nearly every club in the Hastings, Camden Haven and Manning areas and continue to listen to industry views. I am also talking the issue through with many local constituents and can confirm a wide range of views within the mid-north coast of NSW." Folks, things are not looking good for the Gillard government.

The Australian Government VS Clubs Australia and Clubs NSW? We think the smart money is on the clubs. This could be the issues that's the final nail in the coffin of Labor. Just saying! It's war on!

Wrap Up...

How did you like the report? What have you got planned for New Year's Eve? Tell us in the forum.

If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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