The real one-armed bandit is Andrew Wilkie
It’s not often a Government Minister admits to a fatal flaw in their policy, so I congratulate Jenny Macklin for her honesty.
On Tuesday, while attacking clubs and the NRL because they are standing up to Labor’s mandatory pre-commitment policy, a policy that could destroy them, Ms Macklin revealed exactly why it will fail.
She wrote: “…before you sit down at the machine you nominate how much you’re willing to lose, set a limit you can afford – and then stick to it”.
“It’s not about the Government controlling peoples’ money – in fact, quite the opposite. You set the limit. You are in control…”
However that’s precisely the problem – problem gamblers are not in control. If they were in control they wouldn’t bet above their means, chase their losses and we wouldn’t be having this debate.
The reality is problem gamblers are out of control. That why’s they lie to family and friends to hide their habit, steal so they can keep playing and sadly some are so out of control they take their own lives.
If problem gamblers were in control they’d simply walk away from the pokies, however they can’t because their addiction has a terrible hold over them.
Giving problem gamblers a card where they can set their own ridiculously high limits is not going to solve this problem. It’s just going to give them a false sense of security and could cause more harm.
One of the country’s leading gambling experts raised this concern when giving evidence at the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform.
Dr Sally Gainsbury, a post doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Gambling Education and Research at the Southern Cross University, told the committee: “There is some evidence that pre-commitment levels will actually increase gambling for problem gamblers, who will set higher limits to give themselves a buffer zone and then end up actually spending more because they are changing their own mindsets of how much they have to spend.”
Problem gambling is a serious addiction and needs to be treated as such.
That’s why I found Jenny Macklin’s writing so offensive. It contemptuously writes off any opposition to Labor’s plan as being driven by ‘greed’, as being an example of an industry and a sport willing to feed off people’s addictions.
“So it doesn’t make sense to me that the same clubs that bring us together are arguing for a business model based on profiting from peoples’ misery,” she wrote.
Wrong, Minister. People oppose your policy because it simply will not work. And although well intentioned, not only will it not work, but it will kill off the clubs sector because it’s going to create a huge disincentive for the 4.8 million Aussies who don’t have a gambling problem and who like to play the pokies recreationally.
All Labor’s big brother policy will do is deter these recreational players who will shy away from handing over their personal details and signing up for a card. As they stop playing pubs and clubs will have to slash staff, their services and the funding they provide to local sporting clubs.
Meanwhile the out of control problem gamblers will continue along their path of self-destruction until the underlying problem that causes their addiction is treated.
This shouldn’t be about politics. Jenny Macklin needs to stop slandering people and the NRL simply because they’re smarter than she wants to give them credit for.
Many Labor MPs know their policy is a fraud and some have had the courage of their convictions to speak out against it. After meeting with Ms Macklin earlier this year, Queensland Deputy Premier and Labor MP Paul Lucas didn’t hold back.
“Imposing mandatory or even rapid voluntary pre-commitment on these clubs would send them broke and not do one thing about eliminating problem gambling,” he said.
The only reason Labor is pushing ahead with this problematic policy is because they did a dirty deal with Andrew Wilkie to form Government.
He now has a gun to their head and if they don’t implement his extreme scheme by next year he’ll pull the trigger on the Government.
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