It’s all well and good to have debated the pre-commitment poker machine legislation back and forth for the last two years, but none of it matters unless gambling venues commit to upholding the responsible conduct of gambling code.
And clubs aren’t doing that. Or not in my experience anyway.
Drug dealers make money from selling drugs. Prostitutes make their money from sex. For three years I earned a living serving people who destroyed their lives and their families with gambling addictions. The only difference with my trade was, it’s socially acceptable.
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When you think of a problem gambler, chances are you think of someone in a dank, windowless pub section, engrossed by flashing lights and sinisterly cheerful music.
Someone who goes for the free International Roast and stays for the occasional plink of coins won. Someone a bit pathetic.
Not someone in a fascinating mini-headpiece or a nice suit, right? Somehow the glamour of punting on horses hides the fact that that it, too, fuels problem gambling.
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Peter Slipper is soon to be painted in an official portrait to commemorate being Speaker of the House. It’ll cost some $30,000.
Fitting, because Labor engineering Slipper into the Speaker’s chair was hailed as a masterstroke at the beginning. But it cost them a lot.
And it could just cost them more.
Andrew Wilkie does not strike you as someone who skips straight to the back page of the newspaper every morning.
But the anti-pokies campaigner should be very interested in Nathan Hindmarsh’s upcoming autobiography, which contains a stunning admission that the Parramatta Eels skipper blew more than $200,000 on poker machines early in his career.
Hindmarsh apparently wasted several thousand dollars per day at the height of his gambling addiction. Sadly for Parramatta, these investments were no wiser than any of the club’s recent recruitments.
The disheartening story of Adelaide mother Leanne Scott, who was jailed last week for stealing to fund her pokie addiction, shows why we need to take a tougher crack at gaming machines.
Particularly because it demonstrates how pointless it is to expect venues to do any real policing of problem gambling.
Ms Scott, who stole $810,000 from her employers to feed the hungry machines, spoke out in the hopes of warning others about the seductive and destructive lure of pokies. She also laid into her three regular gambling haunts for turning a blind eye to her habit.
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So, James Packer wants to turn Sydney into Macau and milk wealthy Chinese tourists dry.
What we are witnessing is a meticulously planned public relations push, designed to make us all believe that James’ plan is a good one.
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Remember candy cigarettes? They looked like the real deal, but instead of lung cancer they just rotted your teeth. A fitting childhood introduction, really.
Those of us old enough to remember know that they were kind of fun, but they were banned, of course, because society woke up to the fact that they were simply Big Tobacco’s way of prepping kids for a future nicotine habit.
We are now seeing online gambling using a similar model for targeting kids – except it’s much, much cleverer.
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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.
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I really wanted to write about My Kitchen Rules this week, but it turns out there’s even more distasteful backstabbing, strategy and deluded egomania to be had in federal politics.
After 18 months of reassurances that our Foreign Minister is a happy little vegemite in a united ALP team, it now seems clear that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been battling two formidable adversaries: TAbbs and KRudd.
I’ve got to admit, for months I thought the Labor leadership tussle was little more than Canberra commentators feeding off a limp carcass.
I was sorry to see Julia Gillard fall on Australia Day – it’s strangely unsettling to see an adult stumble, and never more so than when it’s a person of power.
To my mind, though, a far more significant fall happened earlier in the week.
I understand the pragmatism behind Ms Gillard’s decision to dump her pokies reform deal with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. She didn’t have the numbers in parliament to get mandatory pre-commitment legislation passed.
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It takes a certain sort of rich self-regard to be in as deep a political hole as Labor MP Craig Thomson and yet still deliver your own leader a dud hand in a major newspaper. Perhaps the Member for Dobell has decided to go all-in as a final flutter (insert further tortured gambling metaphor here).
His oped this morning in The Daily Telegraph essentially used praise of the Prime Minister’s dumping of the Wilkie deal on pokies to suggest her initial decision to commit to the plan had “flown in the face of proper policy making.”
Never mind Thomson’s precarious hold on his career is one of the reasons Julia Gillard felt compelled to woo disgruntled Coalition MP Peter Slipper into the Speaker’s Chair. And now that Wilkie has declared the PM dead to him, she’s back in the position of relying on Thomson not to buckle under the pressure of a range of disastrous accusations, thereby forcing a by-election. The situation is more complicated than a game of Mahjong.
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Father Chris Riley, founder of Youth Off The Streets, is under fire for attacking the proposed pokie reforms and siding with Clubs Australia; all while his charities pocket money from clubs. Here’s another perspective from a respected church leader.
In the race for headlines and hysteria, the poker machine reform debate has fallen through the cracks of serious social progress. In their eagerness to beat back the Government’s agenda on poker machines, pushing their polished and focus tested ‘license to punt’ line, Big Clubs have churned out an astounding $20 million hoping to hit the jackpot.
Through my work with disadvantaged and discriminated Australians, I saw the implementation of poker machine reform as an opportunity to discuss the facts and impacts of problem gambling in Australia. Disappointingly, the lobbyists and ad agencies have had their way once again, turning an issue that destroys lives and families into yet another expensive political sideshow.
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Now our Melbourne Cup flutters are out of the way it is worth investigating how it became valid political logic that the healthy fabric of Australian life would be shredded without big-scale gambling.
Not on horses, but gambling on pokies. Not by once-a-year punters or leviathan professionals, by low-income earners who can suddenly find their rent has disappeared down the maw of a gaming machine.
The glorified role of pokies is a political creation and it is total rubbish.
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With the Queen having sprinkled her magic on our nation, and the sniff of the sport of kings in the air, a battle royal is fast brewing over pokies. On one side are Australia’s bunyip aristocracy and elite. Rich, powerful and masterfully connected, they are used to getting their way.
On the other side, the very plebeian will of the majority - the common sense of the common people. This royal battle which would normally be settled behind closed doors is now public and transparent and will be a watershed test for our nation.
With James Packer and his thousands of Crown pokies emerging to join Channel Nine, the NRL, some AFL clubs and state governments - not to mention the $20 million advertising spend from hotels and clubs - the line up is complete. All the vested financial interests are singing from the same song sheet. Their chorus line is ‘this will not work and it is totally up to individual responsibility with some extra counselling thrown in’. Little wonder Tony Abbott chose to align himself with them.
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Christmas is going to be awkward at the Swans’ this year.
And it won’t be an inappropriate gift causing the tension and a possible barney.
It’ll be Labor’s mandatory pre-commitment policy for poker machines.
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It is hard to believe the NRL, a code which galvanises communities in two of the largest states in Australia, could be staring at financial collapse because of the Gillard Government’s gambling reforms.
It is hard to believe that the AFL, the national game which enjoys the status of a religion in four states and one territory, is also facing ruin because of the mandatory pre-commitment proposal to make gamblers think about how much they are prepared to wager on poker machines before placing a bet.
It is hard to believe because it is simply unbelievable. It is hard to believe because it is rubbish.
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The Revesby Workers’ Club in Sydney’s far south-west used to do a lot for charities, pensioners and kids. It doesn’t anymore though, according to an article in the club’s latest quarterly magazine.
“The poker machine tax is crippling us”, the club’s secretary says in the article. “We can’t afford to help the community anymore. We’re a club and our first duty is to our members – we have to provide amenities for them. It’s a shame we can’t do both.”
Poker machine tax? Does that have anything to do with what NRL commentator Phil Gould was ranting about when the footy was on last Friday? Does it have something to do with that “footy tax” Eddie McGuire has been yapping about? Or whatever those WHO VOTED FOR A LICENCE TO PUNT? coasters at the club are all about? It sure sounds like it. But nope.
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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”.
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Like a lot of parents I have spent my fair share of cold and wintry days on the side of a football field.
I’m also a Victorian, so the shape of the football is a bit different, but the rite of passage – staffing the barbeque, cutting the oranges and sharing the thrills and spills – is a common experience for families across the country.
Game to game, season to season, drinking tea out of a thermos and hearing the coach’s gospel recited over the dinner table, the parents and the kids form a bond.
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After more than a decade in politics, I have sadly grown used to watching the often bizarre stances taken by other pollies and wondering why they are doing what they are doing.
The response of some members of the Coalition to the poker machine issue is a case in point.
To truly understand the Coalition’s current position on pokies, you need to know it has nothing to do with pokies.
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It’s stating the obvious, but problem gamblers have a problem. They suffer from a horrible addiction – the same as alcoholics and druggies – that causes impulses they cannot resist and consequences that affect all those around them.
Like all addicts, problem gamblers go to extreme lengths to get their fix. For 60 per cent, that involves committing a crime to get the cash to feed their habit.
A report by private corruption investigation group Warfield & Associates found poker machines were the most common way to gamble stolen money. The study found between 2008-10 a whopping $13 million was stolen to play the pokies.
Yesterday in The Punch, David Penberthy ridiculed the gambling industry’s claims that pokie-reform was un-Australian. But the $20m campaign by Australian Hotels Association and Clubs Australia campaign about the so-called “licence to punt” is more than just shallow and bankrupt politicking – it’s plainly misleading.
There is NO proposal to have a licence to punt and those concerned about the damage poker machines do are not calling for a licence to punt.
The pre-commitment scheme currently under consideration applies only to poker machines (not punting more generally) and at its simplest is a basic consumer protection tool which will allow gamblers to pre-set a limit to how much they will spend.
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There is a punchy two-word response to claims from the sporting community about the multi-million dollar losses they will sustain if the Federal Government presses ahead with measures to tackle gambling addiction. Sucked in.
For sheer intellectual laziness and candid self-interest, documents don’t get much worse than the formal submission by the South Australian National Football League to the parliamentary inquiry on gaming reform.
Summarised, the SANFL argues that the measures to reduce problem gambling will cost the State’s football clubs $7 million a year. The document is framed around inertia in that it argues for the status quo, rejecting all measures such as compelling gamblers to register with clubs before they spend money on poker machines, and to specify how much money they want to spend if they choose to do so.
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Just when you thought that funnelling your hard earned cash into a soulless machine in the darkest reaches of a hotel couldn’t get anymore depressing, it turns out now your kids can watch.
Disturbingly, The Pink Hill Hotel in Beaconsfield has been given permission to build a children’s playroom enclosed with soundproof glass so that parents can keep an eye on their children from the gaming room. Fabulous!
Now the whole family can revel in the joys of daddy getting 3 pyramids in a row on the Queen of the Nile.
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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.
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