James you should get your head out of your pokies
My first reaction to James Packer’s claims that casinos contribute positively to the community was, ‘Spoken like a true billionaire’.
The comments seemed as removed from reality as James’ fortune allows him to be.
Specifically James told the Crown AGM:” Next time you read an unbalanced story about…casinos and their impact on the community, stop and think about the other side of the story.” And that story as James tells it seems to be a work of fiction.
Demonstrating an incredible blindness to social realities James went on to refer to: “the contribution Crown makes to tourism, to employment, to training, to urban development, to community partnerships and to government revenues. Contributions that make (Crown) fundamentally different to many pubs and clubs.”
It’s hard to know where to start demolishing this argument.
To begin with, it’s a bit like saying ‘You might say we’re bad, but we’re not as bad as the pubs and clubs’ which is hardly a defence worth counting on.
But more than that, every other part of that argument is fundamentally flawed.
Traffic accidents attract crowds but we’re not rushing out to praise those.
In terms of employment and training, the fact is that casinos are amongst the least efficient ways to create jobs. A recent study found that for every million dollars spent on poker machines creates an average of two jobs.
Compare that with a million dollars spent at restaurants and cafés which creates around twenty jobs, or a million dollars spent on retail which creates roughly ten jobs.
As a job creation scheme, casinos are a very bad bet.
It’s hard to know what James Packer means when he talks about a contribution to urban development. If he is talking about the buildings in which his gambling empire is housed it’s safe to say I have seen better contributions to urban development.
James also says Crown contributes to state government revenues, thus exposing the states and territories as the jackpot junkies they are.
In fact you can conclude based on the Productivity Commission’s figures that state and territory governments receive six million, four hundred thousand dollars every day which comes directly from losses by problem gamblers on poker machines.
It’s a shocking figure and a shocking state of affairs.
Finally James Packer claims Crown makes a contribution to community partnerships.
All I can say to that is that if Crown Casino is your partner, you are in an abusive relationship.
Poker machines make half of their profits from problem gamblers.
They do incredible damage to the community.
So much of the money they make is money that is not being spent supporting the community.
It’s food that is not being bought for families.
It’s shoes not being purchased for kids and too often it’s money that is being stolen from other businesses, small and large, by people desperately trying to feed an addiction that only exists because of the existence of places like Crown.
The fact is that James Packer’s business relies heavily of people suffering from a poker machine addiction.
Without these addicted gamblers, the business case collapses.
Today I introduced into Parliament a Private Senator’s Bill that would cap maximum bets on poker machines to $1 and require spin rates and machine volatility to be adjusted to the maximum loss on a machine is no more than $120 an hour.
These are interim measures based on recommendations by the Productivity Commission.
It’s a start, but it is only a start and a wide range of measures including a compulsory pre-commitment scheme are needed to reduce the damage done by poker machines.
The fact is Crown’s contribution to the community is nothing to be proud of.
And for the sake of our community, we have to make sure the house (of Packer) doesn’t win.
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