exclusive – more poker machines for victoria

I believe this is an exclusive… at least, I haven’t seen any reference to this anywhere else, and believe me, I’ve been looking.

We’ve all heard the spin from the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR) in the past few days, talking about the drop in poker machine spending, venues and the overall number of poker machines in Victoria over the past financial year. I’ve written about it here. These figures have been widely touted as proving that Victoria’s fight against problem gambling is making progress.

But the VCGR hasn’t been telling us everything they know.

Back in May, the Brumby State Government held Australia’s first gaming machine entitlement auction. The VCGR was heavily involved in this process. The intention was to take ownership of poker machine entitlements away from the duopoly of Tattersalls and Tabcorp (or, if you’re old-school like me, Tatts and Tabaret) and, instead, put them in the hands of the pubs and clubs that operate them.

The auction itself has been heavily criticised, as thousands of entitlements seemed to be sold for bargain-basement prices. Also, many of the smaller clubs who wanted to guarantee their entitlements ended up paying way above the odds, while major players such as the ALH group (the Mathieson/Woolworths partnership) snapped up entitlements all over the state for a song.

But on 30 July, the VCGR released the most up-to-date figures from the auction… and a little bit of digging turned up an incredible fact.

The auction sold 27,104 gaming machine entitlements across the state of Victoria.

That’s 422 more than the number of poker machines in the state right now. In fact, the last time we had more poker machines than this in Victoria was 2007.

The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that, once the duopoly ends in 2012, poker machine numbers in Victoria will bounce straight back up… and the VCGR knows it.

And it could be worse… the VCGR website states that their figures don’t include a small number of successful bidders who are yet to complete their documentation… that means even more entitlements have been sold.

How can the VCGR and the Brumby State government say they’re winning the war on problem gambling, while quietly ensuring more poker machines for our state?

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