productivity commisson report – at last!

Well, the Productivity Commission report into gambling in Australia has finally been released by the Government. Now, while I don’t have access to the actual report just yet, I have read the draft report and like everyone else, I can read what our media outlets choose to say.

So what are they saying?

* Australian gamblers lost an average of $1500 each last year
* 600,000 Australians play the pokies at least weekly
* There are an estimated 115,000 to 160,000 problem gamblers in Australia
* A further 280,000 to 350,000 Australians are at “moderate risk”
* Gambling losses exceeded $19 billion in 2008/09
* Problem gamblers account for 40% of this figure
* The social cost of problem gambling is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year
* Some of the anti-gambling measures implemented by state governments had been of little effect and put unnecessary burdens on the industry
* Problem gambling should be treated like binge drinking

* Recommendation: allow a maximum of $20 to be inserted into a machine at any one time
* Recommendation: decrease the maximum bet per “button push” to $1
* Recommendation: gradually upgrade all machines to display electronic warning messages
* Recommentation: liberalise online gambling

There’s a lot going on there, and not much that we didn’t already know.

So what has the Federal government said in response, after its lengthy review and deliberation process?

That the ideas need further consideration, and they will discuss them with the States and Territories.

In other words, not much. Senator Xenophon seems to think this too, describing their response as “nothing short of a disgrace”.

There were a couple of positives though. Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin stated that the recommendation to liberalise online gambling should not be implemented (yet). She also stated that the recommendation to roll out pre-commitment technology will be supported, but that it would take time.

Now, to quote Jason Dowling from his recent article in The Age, given that the state and federal governments have just embarked “on a three-year research project to determine if liberalising interactive gambling laws would increase problem gambling,” it makes sense that they wouldn’t be considering the liberalisation of online gambling just yet… although it wouldn’t be the first time governments did things backwards.

One last point to remember: ultimately, it is the state and territorial governments that have primary control of gambling law. So no matter what the federal government says at this point, we’re still waiting on our locals to tell us what will actually happen.

Tony Robinson, over to you.

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