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.”
“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.”
“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.