So Clubs Australia, along with their sidekick the AHA, have moved into the second phase of their campaign against the proposed poker machine reforms. Looks like the catch-phrase department has been busy; following on from the widely-ridiculed “It’s Un-Australian” campaign, they have now kicked off the “Won’t Work, Will Hurt” campaign.
This is a targeted campaign; this time they’re getting political, and they’re getting personal. They’ve identified 31 key electorates along the eastern seaboard, and they’re blanketing those areas with pamphlets aimed directly at local Federal MPs, urging residents to contact them and tell them to oppose the reforms.
For example, this pamphlet was passed on to me from Geelong… it’s been customised for the Federal electorate of Corio, and is aimed at MP Richard Marles. Click on the images to see the pamphlet in detail.
The idea behind this campaign is that supposedly, mandatory pre-commitment won’t work, but will hurt communities. The pamphlets attempt to explain why. Lots of pictures of kids, lots of talking about “us” and “our” and “we”, lots of questionable figures, lots of misdirection.
One thing has remained the same from the “Un-Australian” campaign, though. It’s yet another campaign based on outright lies.
Let’s take a look. According to the pamphlet, “The Gillard Government is proposing new laws which require all poker machine players to obtain a licence before they play.”
This is simply not true. It is a lie. I can’t say that clearly enough. The proposed reforms do NOT require all poker machine players to obtain a licence. For the clubs & pubs lobby to claim this, as they have done repeatedly over the past 12 months, is deceptive and dishonest.
The pamphlet goes on to explain how problem gamblers will be the first to get a card, will set high limits, and will not be restricted from other forms of gambling. Oh those naughty problem gamblers, making life hard for everyone. As a former poker machine addict, I am constantly offended when the clubs and pubs, in their capacity as gambling venues, tell me what a problem gambler will and won’t do.
They don’t have a fucking clue.
For starters, don’t talk about other forms of gambling. These reforms are about poker machines, which rip $12 billion out of the pockets of Australians every year; no other form of gambling comes close. The vast majority of problem gamblers in this country are poker machine addicts who have no trouble with any other form of gambling. And most poker machine addicts hate their addiction, hate the machines and are crying out for something that can make a difference.
Back to the pamphlets. There are lots of figures… how much money will be lost, how many jobs will be cut, and so on. These figures are fiction. They are based on a worst case scenario that does not include low-loss machines.
There is expert testimony, specifically from Dr Alex Blaszczynski… an academic who can thank the gambling industry for funding a lot of his research, and who will always advise further research in place of action.
There is the same old rehash about how local sports and charities will suffer, how clubs will close down, how jobs will be lost and the economy will suffer. Do you know how much of their poker machine revenue clubs give back to the community? Less than 5%. In fact it’s usually closer to 1% or 2%, but I’m being generous. Less money spent on poker machines means more money spent elsewhere; that means more jobs, more industries, more spending. And local sport and community groups will only suffer if the clubs continue to give them the bare minimum that they are forced to by law. When registered clubs spend more on advertising than they give back to the community, it’s time for change.
The list of problems with this campaign, these pamphlets, goes on… but there are some subtle issues as well. The colour scheme, for example. The abortive “Un-Australian” campaign decked itself out in green and gold (so patriotic!), and this new campaign has kept that colour scheme.
There is also an implied lack of respect for the Prime Minister. Take a look at the pamphlet; there is mention of the “Gillard Government”, but every direct mention of the Prime Minister refers to her simply as “Gillard”. Surely our country’s elected leader should expect to be addressed by her title (at least) ? Especially in a politically-motivated lobbyist campaign? It is clear that the gambling lobby have no respect for anyone who stands in their way.
I believe the clubs are playing a dangerous game with this campaign. There is so much in these pamphlets that can be proven to be false, and they’re being distributed to 1.5 million households with the aim of applying political pressure… yet first and foremost, it is the clubs and pubs that stand to benefit financially should these reforms be blocked.
I would urge anyone who receives one of these pamphlets to think very carefully about contacting the ACCC and making a formal complaint with regards to false and misleading representation. I am not at all convinced that what the gambling lobby are doing with this campaign is entirely legal.
It certainly doesn’t have much basis in truth.