Wilkie is poking around on the wrong gambling issue
Andrew Wilkie has okayed a lame version of the government’s pokies legislation, which he yesterday called a “stepping stone to meaningful reform in the future”.
The guts of the deal is that club ATMs will be able to spit out just $250 worth of pokie playmoney per day, and that pre-commitment to an amount you’re willing to lose will be optional rather than mandatory.
The legislation is now toothless on two fronts. Firstly, optional pre-commitment is like offering a drunk the choice of ejecting himself for obnoxiousness. And secondly, the legislation fails to address the burgeoning arena of sports gambling.
Sports gambling is the new red-and-black. The sector accounted for just one per cent of Australia’s total gambling spend as recently as 2008, but is growing rapidly. Whatever the current figure, it’s safe to say sports bookies like that Tom Slaughterhouse (or whatever his name is) aren’t advertising for the fun of it.
The concept which the blinkered anti-pokies brigade don’t understand is that every other form of gambling in Australia is cleverly mirroring itself on the pokies these days, and has become just as insidious.
The TAB used to have a few day meetings and a few night meetings. Now it has everything from the NZ races in the morning to the French trots late at night. It’s wall to wall racing, racing, racing, just like the endless hit, hit, hit of the big red button on a poker machine.
Sports betting is the same. A single sports bet on your favourite footy team is fine in theory, but sports betting options are are there all day and all night. Blow your $20 on the Friday night footy match and you can blow another $20 on the Norwegian ice hockey and another $20 on the Serbian third division soccer and so on until oblivion.
No one has bothered quantifying how many Australians have online betting accounts, but it’s almost a rite of passage these days. For today’s 18-25 year olds, their betting account (many of which offer credit with no questions asked) is the equivalent of pokie habit. Yet still all we hear about is the national pokies problem.
As The Australian reported last year, the University of Sydney Gambling Treatment Clinic found that the number of new clients rocking up with sports betting problems had risen from less than 5 per cent in 2006 to between 15 per cent and 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, the sports bookies continue to advertise unchecked, and to suck in ever-growing hordes of young Australians.
My children see the odds when they do their online footy tips on Friday arvo, and again when they watch Friday night footy, and again when they’re watching pretty much anything except ABC kids on the weekend. A TV ban on these ads before 8.30pm would make all kinds of crazy sense. Why isn’t Wilkie banging on about that?
Meanwhile, the amount of money spent on pokies is actually dropping, albeit slightly. The pokie industry doesn’t talk much about that, lest the secret get out that their product is the most mind-numbing so-called entertainment since Justin Bieber, but it’s true.
Gambling on pokies dropped half a billion dollars in the five year period from 2003/4 to 2008/9. Admittedly, the indoors smoking ban accounted for some of this, but pokies are losing their lustre. They still account for just over half of Australia’s annual $20 billion gambling spend, but the percentage is dropping and will continue to do so as the blue-rinsers age and drop off the perch.
The clubs know this. They need their addicts to stay addicted for as long as possible, which is why they fought Wilkie and Gillard so hard.
The government effectively lost that battle, and should now should turn its attention to a new generation who consider betting on a sports game as natural a part of the experience as yelling at the uniformed officials. It starts with one $20 or $50 punt a week, but as mentioned, for so many it soon becomes becomes one hit after another, just like the pokies.
A prime time TV ban on sports betting ads is a must. Forget the oldies on the pokies. They’re close to incurable anyway. It’s the youngsters on loseyourshirt.com who need attention.
Mr Wilkie is sticking his finger in the dyke, and not very effectively at that, while massive leaks spring elsewhere.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…