When I wrote two days ago about NSW’s registered Catholic clubs, and their support for the “It’s Un-Australian” campaign opposing poker machine reforms, I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction. Instead of an outpouring of condemnation for, and indignation from, the Catholic church, what I got was support. This story was not about the Catholic church seeking to actively profit from pokie addicts; it was about the Catholic clubs, and the lip-service they pay to Catholic ideals while serving their real masters, Clubs NSW… and that’s how it was received.
The story was picked up by Crikey, and was also re-published on the CathNews website, where the reaction was especially strongly supportive of the reforms and incensed by the behaviour of these clubs. Links to the article on Twitter were tweeted and retweeted by Catholic priests and organisations; it was clear where their hearts lay on this matter.
Today, however, it gets worse.
As reported this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald, Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club is taking things one step further. They’re seeking to change their constitution to allow them to actively oppose poker machine reform.
I kid you not.
The board is united in their intention to remove wording from their constitution that constrains them to acting in a “non-political” fashion. They have sent out a letter to members explaining that this constitutional change will allow them to oppose the “current Federal government gaming pre-commitment proposals”.
Makes it sound like they’re not already involved… yet as I said on Monday, Dooleys is already running this on the front page of their website:
…and their Industry News page goes into greater detail about the campaign, with links to the “It’s Un-Australian” website and Clubs NSW and misleading statements such as needing a licence to have a $5 punt.
How is that “non-political”? This action by the Dooleys board is a retrospective attempt to legitimise what they’re already doing, despite the fact that their opposition to the proposed reforms has been widely condemned within the Catholic community.
Despite recent assurances from Catholic club presidents (including Dooleys’ John Munce) to Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell that problem gambling was not a major issue in Catholic clubs, there is absolutely no evidence of this. And Dooleys derive roughly 80% of their revenue from poker machines… last year that came to over $35 million.
These Catholic clubs are no more Catholic in their behaviour and intentions than any other club. It’s time they stopped pretending otherwise.