The government, belatedly realising that the poker machine industry has gone too far in its quest to maximise profits, decides to act. They announce that as a measure to combat problem gambling, the maximum bet on poker machines will be slashed. An aggressive timeframe is put in place; industry has two months to ensure all new machines comply, and within two years all poker machines, new and old, must meet the new standard.
Rather than fighting this new development, the poker machine industry shrugs and says “ok”. Venues, operators and manufacturers work with the government to make sure they measure up. And nineteen months later, the feat is accomplished.
Sound like a pipe dream?
This has already happened.
In May 2008, Victoria’s Brumby Government announced that the maximum bet for all poker machines in Victoria (outside of the casino) would be cut from $10 to $5. Industry was given until July 1st 2008 to make sure that all new machines complied. And the deadline for compliance across the board, for old machines and new, was January 1st 2010… just 20 months away.
The Vic Govt gazette (2008) cutting bet limits
No one howled. No one organised rallies, or marched on Spring Street, or put up billboards slamming the move. No one was denounced as being “un-Australian.”
They just went ahead and did it.
And by January 1st 2010, these changes were indeed in place. The maximum bet on all poker machines in Victoria was dropped from $10 to $5 in under two years, without a murmur from the industry.
All of which makes a mockery of the claims by both the industry and the Federal government that dropping poker machine bet limits nationally to $1 would take years and cost billions of dollars.
All modified poker machines would need to be re-certified? Sure, that happened in 2008. Big deal.
There’s not enough time to put the changes in place? Hey, Victoria made sure that over 27,000 poker machines were brought into line in under two years.
The modifications will cost billions of dollars? That’s not what the industry said in 2008.
The changes are too complex, the existing machines are too old, it’s just too hard? Please. It’s a software change, with some cosmetic modifications to the cabinets to reflect the new betting limits. I’ve got 20 years in the IT industry informing this opinion.
No. The only difference between what the Victorian government did in 2008, and what the Federal government refuses to do now, is that the industry knows a maximum bet of $1 would hit their bottom line.
Hence the outrage, the bloated claims of cost and time and complexity. It’s all been a lie, served up by the industry (led by Clubs NSW), encouraged by the Opposition (which backed the industry), and swallowed by the Government which took it as gospel.
The states have now taken their lead from Canberra; just today, the Labor and Liberal parties in Tasmania voted against a proposal for $1 bets in that state. This, the easiest of reforms, will not be considered any time soon.
It’s now been over two and a half years since the federal election of 2010; going by the Victorian experience, $1 bets could have already been a national reality. That they’re not even on the agenda is, instead, a national disgrace.
It really is that simple.