Two days on, and the media frenzy over “fingerprinting to play pokies” continues. If we ever needed proof that Clubs Australia can exert undue influence over our media outlets, this is it.
I wrote about the fingerprinting beatup on Friday, as soon as the story came out. Since then the madness has gone from strength to strength. New articles keep popping up, all full of wailing and chest-beating and gnashing of teeth, and although the government has tried to clear the air and set the story straight, it seems like no one’s listening. The small screen is getting in on the act too, I saw a heavily clubs-focused story on SkyNews last night (not my choice of channel, btw) and I’m sure it’s right cross the commercial stations.
So why am I blaming the clubs for this hysteria, this avalanche of misinformation and outright lies? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Here’s a selection of stories published since Friday morning:
Pokies prints check – quotes Clubs Victoria executive director Richard Evans.
Push to fingerprint pokie players – quotes Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball.
No scans on pokies please, say clubs – quotes Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball.
Pokies proposal a threat to clubs – quotes three separate club managers from the Sunshine Coast.
Clubs, pubs say Gillard pokies law would threaten their future – quotes two separate club managers from North Sydney.
Gambling deal is meaningless tokenism – rejects pre-commitment and downplays problem gambling; written by Dr Rohan Miller, who has a long history of consultation with clubs, pubs and poker machine manufacturer Aristocrat.
Fingerprint pokies ‘ludicrous’: SS&A chief – quotes two separate club managers from the Vic-NSW border area.
Spot the trend? Clubs, clubs, clubs. You’d almost think the clubs in this country belonged to an organised and influential organisation with ties to our politicians and media… oh, right.
Reading these articles, you would come to the conclusion that Julia Gillard has proposed a law to fingerprint anyone who wants to play the pokies. These fingerprints will be stored on a national database, giving rise to security and privacy concerns. Pokie players will be treated like criminals. Mandatory pre-commitment technology is another term for fingerprinting. There are hardly any problem gamblers anyway, and they’re simply being irresponsible.
None of this is true.
Mandatory pre-commitment technology does not equal fingerprinting. No fingerprinting law has been proposed. Biometric scanning has been suggested as one of the options to implement mandatory pre-commitment, but there are other options being considered. There will be no national database of fingerprints; this was never part of the biometric option. Pokie players will not be treated like criminals. And there are still far, far too many problem gamblers in this country.
On a side note: there are thousands of laptop computers in this country, and tens of thousands more around the world, that use exactly the kind of biometric scanning that has been proposed for poker machines. They use it in place of a password. There’s no global outrage, no fears of a database of computer users, no hysteria of any kind. This technology exists and is in widespread use already; it’s simply that the clubs and their friends are waging a war against the entire concept of pre-commitment technology, and using the stigma of fingerprinting to taint what is a proven means of combating problem gambling.
Back to the clubs: it is representatives of the clubs movement in this country who have screamed about non-existent databases of poker machine players. It was Clubs Australia CEO Anthony Ball who associated pokie players with criminals. And it is the media that they influence that has continued to push the lie that mandatory pre-commitment equals fingerprinting.
Clubs Australia is the single largest organisation with involvement in poker machines in this country. As such, they have the most to lose if the gambling industry undergoes reform. They have lost sight of their fundamental reason for existence, which is to support communities. By protecting their pokies in their current state, they are ensuring that the community will continue to lose billions of dollars every year… far more than they give back.