a hollow victory

Well, it finally happened. More than two months after the Gillard/Wilkie agreement broke down under the strain of relentless industry campaigning, and almost a year to the day after that campaign was launched, Clubs Australia has claimed victory in the “pokie reform war.”

Anthony Ball, the executive director of Clubs Australia, has sent a memo out to clubs across the country about the “It’s Un-Australian” and “Won’t Work, Will Hurt” campaigns. The memo announces the end of both campaigns, as a result of the Federal Government backing away from mandatory pre-commitment.

In addition to the memo, Ball also released a campaign newsletter about the victory. Here’s a selection of what he had to say:

“Clubs Australia is pleased the Government now recognises that mandatory pre-commitment is not the solution to problem gambling.”

And:

“It is also the right outcome for problem gamblers who are now set to benefit from practical and effective gambling help tools such as increased access to counselling services.”

And:

“The industry takes problem gambling very seriously.”

Lord, I’m drowning in the smugness. This from the guy who claims he has only ever met one problem gambler in his life.

As usual, after his boss had shot his mouth off, Clubs Australia media man Jeremy Bath tried to be somewhat more tactful. Hosing down the idea that the clubs had “won”, Bath said:

“If it’s a win, it’s a win with two black eyes and a couple of broken bones.”

Cry me a river, Jeremy. Your industry threw money around and yelled as loudly as it could, until it got its way.

Have the clubs won? Not yet, and this decision to end the campaign may be somewhat premature.

  • There has been no word so far from the Australian Hotels Association about winding up their part in the campaign.
  • The proposed ACT poker machine trial that Clubs Australia are so proud of is supposed to prove the viability and effectiveness of mandatory pre-commitment, so it’s not off the table yet.
  • And the possibility of $1 maximum bets for poker machines remains, with legislation about this recently being introduced recently to the senate. It’s well known that the industry vehemently opposes $1 maximum bets, so they may be dusting off their placards yet.

Still the clubs are claiming victory. Winding up their campaigns is supposed to prove that point. But at what cost?

Sure, their poker machines can keep spinning away unimpeded. On average, each machine across the country sucks more than $60,000 out of the community every year. That’s not going to change.

And sure, a small percentage of that money will eventually find its way back to charities and junior sporting clubs. Funny how many of those sporting clubs actually belong to the clubs that give them money.

Club members will be rapt too. The ones who don’t play the pokies, I mean. They’ll keep drinking their cheap beer and eating their cheap parmagianas, kindly subsidised by the poker machines.

But the thing about poker machines is this: for every winner, there’s half a dozen losers. If the clubs are the winners, it’s Australia’s poker machine players who have lost… and will keep losing until everything is gone.

Between thirty and fifty per cent of regular poker machine players has a problem, ranging from moderate to severe. That’s up to 300,000 people across the country, and that’s a conservative estimate.

And the pain of poker machine addiction, the repercussions aren’t confined to the player. Husbands, wives, parents and children, friends and family, workmates and bosses, everyone gets caught in the backlash when poker machine addiction takes hold. Between 2 and 3 million Australians, at least, are impacted this way.

Gambling is second only to drugs as the major cause of crime in Australia. Divorce, domestic abuse are not uncommon when poker machines are involved. We are a nation that is haemorrhaging badly, and although $13 billion a year in losses is bad enough, it’s the lives that are being torn apart and lost forever that are the true tragic cost of this sorry tale.

To Anthony Ball, Jeremy Bath and the rest of the mob at Clubs Australia and Clubs NSW; to Clubs Qld, Clubs ACT and the rest of the ruling bodies that supported these deceptive and contemptible campaigns; to every club, pub and RSL across the country that put up green & gold “Un-Australian” signs and handed out coasters for people to sign; for everyone who attended the rallies and screamed abuse at elected ministers who were only doing their job; I have only this to say.

In the coming years, hundreds of thousands of Australians will develop poker machine addictions. Lives will be badly, tragically damaged, and many lost. That number could have been greatly reduced, but you’ve made sure that won’t be the case.

You are beneath contempt. And while you celebrate your victory, society’s blood is on your hands.

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4 Responses

  1. fAMILYMAN says:

    Dear Tom,

    It is not over yet by a long shot.

    I myself will do every thing I can to bring down the gillard government and the Labor party as they deserve no reward for giving the keys to the Lodge and the Commonwealth of Australia to a bunch of snake oil salesmen who peddle machines that addict Australians and destroy families. The gambling midgets might be laughing all the way to the bank while many cry all the way to the cemetery but I believe in Karma. Before any victory comes about the public will know exactly who they are and the role Labor and Julia and Jenny had in this. Mind you Abbott will be a pox on the country but then again does not the public deserve the government they elect? In any event Tom it is not over yet as May looms closer but if problem gamblers are tossed aside I will campaign tirelessly for the ousting of Julia and Jenny and for the same outcome for federal labor that they received in Qld..

  2. cyenne says:

    Personally, I think we’ll be far worse off under a Coalition government. Abbott was only too happy to attend an anti-MPC rally and speak out on behalf of the clubs. With him in charge, the only guarantee is that nothing will happen.

  3. Familyman says:

    I agree Tom but Julia should not be rewarded by being reelected if she does not do the hard yards and keep her word to Wilkie and legislate for the switching on of MPC if the trial proves it is better than voluntary PC. All she would of done would be a trial that will never see light of day, give the labor clubs and labor hangeroners hundreds of millions of dollars and the industry blanket legislation to continue to slaughter Australians for ever more. At least the ex-monk Abbott is basically saying he wants the pokie donations and it’s ok to slaughter problem gamblers and their families where as Gillard is a snake about it and has the power now to do something historical and right but choses to bs about it all being so so hard. They are both as bad as each other ( Abbott a tinge worse I agree) at the moment but I will not vote for her if she does the hissy fit yet again and tries to lie her way out of it yet again. She needs to understand there are many aussies who see Poker machine addiction as a national epidemic and feel like I do. And lastly how many MP’S in labor crawl up to poker machine barons . Gaig Thompson did his best to skittle MPC did he not? And she condemns Wilkie but praises Thompson? Actions speak louder than any words especially words from politicians so come on Julia and Jenny lets see your actions now and not another broken promise that everyone can see through

  4. puffyTMD says:

    Familyman,
    There are words in your reply which suggests you are fitting ideas to you pre-existing beliefs. The words ‘not another broken promise’ is Liberal Party rhetoric, and suggests that your reason for anger at the PM, who had to negotiate with the Independents who did not all support her legislation, is disproportionate of that to the Leader of the Opposition.

    The LOTO had the ultimate power in this debate. Mr Abbott could have taken a moral stance and advised PM Gillard that the Coalition would be taking a non-partisan approach to the cancer of poker machines by voting for the legislation.

    If this had been done, the legislation would now be enacted, and applied from July 1st, 2012. It was so easy for Tony to do, much easier than Gillard convincing the cross-bench to vote in favour, which she could not do.

    I have an email from Mr Windsor, his reply to my urging to support the government. He explained why he would not, citing the harm clubs in his area.

    Sadly, he did not cite the harm to his constituents through gambling addiction. That is one vote the PM will never get to pass the legislation. I have had no reply from the others, excepting Mr Wilkie.

    You could be right, the ALP government and these two women may have been able to do more, but the irrefutable fact is that if Tony Abbott had treated this as an urgent community issue that required statesmanship above party political advantage, these women would not have had to do more.

    So I am at a loss to understand why you wish to reward Tony Abbott and the Coalition with the power of government for with-holding the votes that Julia Gillard desperately needed to pass her pokies legislation.

    We can only hope after the trial, some cross-benchers change their minds (Windsor is unlikely to be one of them) or a few brave L/NP members cross the floor.

    I can see no circumstances under which Tony Abbott or his front bench will vote with the government, even on an issue which means men and women’s ruin and suicide. This is especially so when the blame for the failure to control electronic gaming has so successfully been shifted to the government in the minds of voters such as yourself.

    You may be a Coalition voter, if so you will have to front up to the perfidy of Tony Abbott on this issue.

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