Having successfully seen off the threat of mandatory pre-commitment, Clubs Australia have turned their attention to the question of image. They’re desperate to been as champions of real reform, while at the same time ensuring that their own particular brand of gambling can carry on unimpeded.
Their recent submission to the Senate Inquiry into problem gambling is a case in point. It’s stuffed full of the perils of online and sports gambling, and proposes a range of half-hearted measures that stoically ignore the root of the problem: poker machines themselves.
It also talks about education.
In his National Times article today (carried by The Age, The SMH and all the other Fairfax papers) Richard Willingham wrote about Clubs Australia’s proposal for school-based education programs, supposedly to combat problem gambling. The reaction to this suggestion was less than positive; representatives of the Australian Education Union, Parents Victoria and the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals all criticised the concept.
According to Clubs Australia’s submission:
The content of the school-based education program could draw from the Productivity Commission recommendation 7.1:
• dispel common myths about gambling and educate people about how to gamble safely
• highlight potential future consequences associated with problem gambling, and
• make the community aware of behaviours indicative of problem gambling, to encourage earlier help-seeking or interventions by family and friends.
That’s the crux of their argument. Take careful note of the first point: “dispel common myths about gambling and educate people about how to gamble safely.” Now, I’ll come back to the common myths argument a little later on… but are Clubs Australia really suggesting we teach our children how to gamble?
You bet they are.
There is one fundamental problem with this proposal. It’s supposedly predicated upon “recommendation 7.1”, which is found in the 2010 Productivity Commission report into gambling in Australia. But recommendation 7.1 is not about education. It’s not saying that schools should be doing these things. No, it’s a recommendation for the government to place greater emphasis on campaigns to do this.
That’s an extremely important point, because later in their report the Productivity Commission did look at education and school-based programs. They had only one recommendation to make on this topic, which is recommendation 9.1, and it states:
Given the risk of adverse outcomes, governments should not extend or renew school-based gambling education programs without first assessing the impacts of existing programs.
How about that. Clubs Australia have based their call for gambling education in our schools on a report that explicitly recommends the exact opposite.
Now, back to the myths. One of the reasons Clubs Australia want this school-based gambling education program in place is to “dispel common myths about gambling”.
The question is, whose myths?
Are Clubs Australia talking about the list of common myths that are found on the official South Australian problem gambling website? Here’s a selection:
MYTH: ‘I know that if I hit the button on the machine at just the right moment, I can stop the reels at a winning combination.’
MYTH: ‘The person who played the machine after me won big. I should have kept playing as that win would have been mine.’
MYTH: ‘My gaming machine hasn’t paid out for a while, it is therefore due for a win.’
MYTH: ‘If you put enough money into a poker machine you will eventually win.’
MYTH: ‘Some poker machines are luckier than others.’
Or are they talking about their own sanctioned list of common myths? Here’s a selection of Clubs Australia’s “common myths”, as found in their submission to the Senate’s earlier pre-commitment inquiry:
MYTH: The club movement is addicted to gaming revenue and is not interested in tackling problem gambling.
MYTH: Academic research is conclusive that poker machines are the antecedent of gambling addiction.
MYTH: All poker machine players are vulnerable, and the government must impose a solution on all to ensure their spending is appropriate.
And here’s a selection from an official Clubs QLD document called “Mythbusting The Problem Gambling Deal”, which was part of the “It’s Un-Australian” campaign and was authorised by Clubs Australia:
MYTH: The gaming industry is not serious about problem gambling.
MYTH: Recreational gamblers can play low intensity machines and avoid the mandatory pre-commitment scheme.
MYTH: The industry is opposed to pre-commitment scheme.
MYTH: Community clubs profit from gambling.
Seems to me that the “common myths” that Clubs Australia want to dispel have nothing to do with preventing problem gambling or poker machine addiction, and everything to do with protecting their image and their industry. These are, after all the myths that Clubs Australia themselves have written and authorised.
So, to summarise. Clubs Australia want gambling education in our schools, to teach our youth how to gamble, and to dispel negative perceptions of their industry. They base this call on a report that unequivocally recommends doing nothing of the sort.
Just another day in the Clubs Australia office, really.
If you want to read the Clubs Australia submission to the Senate Inquiry into problem Gambling for yourself, here is the link to the Senate Inquiry submissions page. Clubs Australia’s submission is number 29.