The article in today’s AFR (also covered here in The Age), “Pokies swallow carbon tax compo”, has certainly caused a furore. The article suggests that the government’s recent carbon tax compensation payments have been largely fed into the nation’s 200,000 poker machines. I have no doubt this is true, to a degree. But there are a couple of massive inaccuracies that must be clarified and corrected.
The claim is based on recent figures from the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, that show a 7% rise in poker machine spending in May this year and an almost 12% rise in June. This is linked to the clean energy payments, or “carbon tax compo”, that started in May.
Again, I agree that many people would have fed their payments straight into their local pub or club’s poker machines. But don’t for a moment think that this is, as has been suggested, a “spike” in poker machine spending in Queensland.
The reality is even more frightening. Queensland’s poker machine spending has increased EVERY month, on a year-by-year basis, for the past two years. That’s 24 CONSECUTIVE months of increased poker machine expenditure.
This is not a spike in spending… it’s a trend.
I wrote about this very topic back in April (you can read that article here), and included the following graph that shows how Queensland’s poker machine expenditure has been steadily increasing:
Queensland poker machine spending
When we factor in the recent figures, it looks like this:
This reality also makes a liar out of Clubs Australia boss Anthony Ball. In Willingham’s article Ball is quoted as saying:
“While gaming revenue has risen in Queensland, the growth appears to be isolated to that region. This rise in Queensland is no doubt attributable to the state coming off a low base 12 months ago when the floods saw gaming revenues plummet on the back of numerous club closures that took many months to reopen.”
Not so. Gaming revenue didn’t “plummet” 12 months ago… quite the opposite. In fact, poker machine losses in Queensland increased by 5.23% in the 2010/2011 financial year… even more than they did in the 2011/2012 financial year (4.27%).
Ball knows this; it’s his job to know this. Yet once again he denies that poker machine spending is a problem, and uses an utter fabrication to try and prove his point.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of saying that carbon tax compo payments, or flood relief handouts, or the stimulus package, have failed because people spent them on poker machines. That’s a stupid, ridiculous argument. You don’t pump every cent you have into a poker machine, including extra cash as a result of any of these initiatives, unless you have a problem… and that problem is caused NOT by the extra money, but by the poker machines themselves and the impact they have on so many people.
Want to make sure people don’t blow it all? Then fix the problem at the source… and that problem is poker machines. If either of the reforms that the industry so vehemently opposed (mandatory pre-commitment and $1 bets) had actually been implemented, this wouldn’t be an issue.
All this does is prove yet again how big a problem they are. As if we didn’t already know.