Posted 14/04/2011 11:10:45 AM by clubsnsw editor
Many Australians will know the story. In the 1930s, beetles were ravaging Queensland’s sugar cane. So, based on overseas success and a brief Government study, it was decided to introduce cane toads, a natural enemy to the beetles. Some lone voices protested the action, but by 1937 thousands of toads were released into the wild. The result: not only were the toads unsuccessful in eliminating the threat from the beetles, but they contaminated the natural biodiversity and proved that the cure was worse than the original disease.
The Federal Government’s proposals to reform poker machines are not dissimilar. Despite the prevalence rates of problem gambling falling in every Australian state, the Federal Government believes it should legislate over the top of states and territories to introduce a licence to punt - a system whereby all poker machine players must show ID, register for a card and ‘pre-commit’ to the amount of money they wish to spend each session. Once the limit is reached, they will be locked out of all machines for at least 24 hours.
These reforms, as part of a hastily arranged deal between the Prime Minister and the independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie in exchange for his support of the minority government, came in part from an idea of the Productivity Commission. The Commission, which advised that Australian trials were necessary before introduction of this measure, based the idea on the one country that has implemented it: Norway. The Government of Norway, with its 2,300 machines, limits its citizens to spend $385 a month. What was not considered by the Commission was the number of Norwegians who simply switched to online gambling as a result, so the policy did nothing to reduce problem gambling.
It is these unintended, but foreseeable consequences, that has Clubs Australia and the Australian Hotels Association concerned enough that we have launched a national public awareness campaign.
We know that problem gamblers will do whatever it takes to gamble. They will use the licence, and then when their limit is reached, they’ll beg, borrow or steal another. Or they’ll simply gamble online. Recreational punters, however, will simply stop punting in clubs and pubs. Who wants to register for a licence to have fun when you can have a drink instead? It’s the lost revenue from these players that threatens the future of pubs and clubs. And let’s not forget that the money from gaming revenue not only funds around 10 per cent of state taxation income, but it also funds RSLs and veterans services, junior sports and bowling greens, surf life saving and local charities.
It is not wrong for the Government to want to do more for problem gamblers. Australians with a poker machine addiction need counselling and treatment. However, they don’t need a licence to punt. That solution is nothing more than a cane toad of an idea.