the pre-commitment for poker machines report is here at last

Yes, it’s finally here. The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform this morning released their initial report covering “The design and implementation of a mandatory pre-commitment system for electronic gaming machines”. This is the committee that was set up following the ALP’s win at the last Federal election, and was chaired by Independent Andrew Wilkie.

It’s been a long time coming, which is hardly surprising. 119 individual submissions (including my own) and eight public hearings makes for a lot of material to work through! But it has finally been released, and as expected there is no reference to a “licence to punt”. Actually, that’s not quite true; Senator Xenophon does refer to it briefly in his additional comments at the end of the report, but only to highlight the lies being put about by ClubsAustralia as part of their abortive pro-pokies campaign.

The report is available on the Australian Parliament’s website, and I urge you to take a look for yourself. In the short term, I have plucked out what I feel are the key recommendations… and they are:

• Existing Australian poker machines should be classified as high-intensity poker machines.
• Mandatory pre-commitment for high-intensity poker machines should be rolled out in pubs, clubs and casinos across Australia by 2014.
• Low-intensity poker machines should be made available for operation by pubs, clubs and casinos.
• Low-intensity poker machines have the following restrictions: $1 maximum bet, $20 maximum load-up and $500 maximum win.
• Low-intensity poker machines will NOT require pre-commitment to play.
• Existing high-intensity poker machines can be reconfigured to become low-intensity poker machines.
• Small gambling venues (with 15 or fewer poker machines) will have until 2018 to implement mandatory pre-commitment.
• A transitional fund should be established to assist smaller venues with the cost of compliance with mandatory pre-commitment regulations.
• An independent national body should be established to oversee mandatory pre-commitment issues and regulations.
• State and territorial jurisdiction over the number and distribution of poker machines will remain in place.
• The preferred solution for enforcing mandatory pre-commitment is a smartcard solution with basic identity requirements.
• The pre-commitment smartcard should have a default betting limit, which can be changed by the gambler who owns the card.
• Betting limits can be increased once every fortnight.
• Betting limits can be decreased once every 24 hours.
• The pre-commitment smartcard should include the capacity for self-exclusion.
• Venues will have the choice of operating high-intensity poker machines, low-intensity poker machines or a combination of both.

So what do I think? In my opinion, these recommendations embody a true overhaul of the current poker machine gambling industry in this country. They address the current untenable situation not only by putting reasonable restrictions in place, and not only by empowering gamblers to make their own choices regarding how much they are prepared to gamble, but also by fundamentally altering the landscape with the introduction of low-intensity poker machines… commonplace around the world but previously unheard of in Australia.

These recommendations also recognise that there is a sprawling industry that relies on poker machines for their existence, being our casinos and many of our pubs and clubs. A two-tier poker machine system will allow these venues to provide machines for their patrons that don’t require a card to play, while still catering for those who wish to gamble larger amounts. In particular, the additional time allowed for smaller venues to comply, along with the establishment of a transitional fund to help with the costs of compliance, are proof that this reform process is not anti-clubs (an allegation made all too often in recent weeks) or anti-gambling in general.

Of course, these recommendations could have gone further; but I believe they have struck a real and viable balance between the needs of the public in general, problem gamblers in particular, and the industry.

There is one point that has been conveniently ignored by all opponents to mandatory pre-commitment that I would like to make. These reforms are designed to minimise harm and empower gamblers with the tools to control their own gambling. However, by changing the poker machine “playing field” they will also have a tremendous impact on the development of problem gambling behaviours in years to come. These reforms are not just about making a difference to the gamblers of today; they will help prevent future generations of Australians from falling into the problem gambling trap.

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10 Responses

  1. Libby Mitchell says:

    Yes Tom these reforms are a very significant step forward hopefully, however I cannot agree with your comment…”Of course, these recommendations could have gone further; but I believe they have struck a real and viable balance between the needs of the public in general, problem gamblers in particular, and the industry.” The yhave not struck a balance in my opinion.

    Harmed families now have no access to gambler spending records that they need, to discover if a loved one is overspending THEIR money. Since most gamblers use $1 limit machines and lower…the reforms will very likely not affect most players, especially women who play low stakes for longer periods…to still become problem gamblers?

    So how will the public be better protected by the biggest source of financial drain via pokies? Nothing much has changed it seems. Problem gamblers MAY be encouraged to use lower intensity machines or to use pre-commitment etc so pokies spending might reduce….however NO pokies consumer including the responsible ones, will get a spending record…a prime safety tool for consumers.

    Those who think that “transaction record” matter is less important or worse, is unimportant, need to do some hard thinking and hard learning about consumer issues. They obviously do not understand the full and proper role of the transaction record, in protecting all consumers both responsible and less responsible. The record of spending is the greatest self-monitoring tool any consumer can possess that helps him to budget/forecast his spending, monitor and moderate his spending and to redirect his money efficiently. It is his visible ‘hard copy’ in facing his true amount of spending.

    I am personally less than excited about the scope or lack of scope of the reforms at this stage, since it is a fundamental role of any responsible business to maximize its consumer protections. This clearly has not been achieved since no pokies gambling consumer will be able to receive an effective transaction record of his gambling spending. How bad does it get Tom?

    NO other facet of consumer behaviour or business need should have been considered before this receipting aspect, excepting to make poker machines safer by design to render them less addictive and entrancing. The gambling industry had many years to rectify both of these aspects of pokies delivery….and yet again the industry will get away with its unscrutinized games.

    That other equally fundamental issue, product design remains unaddressed to the point that the reforms have merely skirted some edges, made a bit of noise, will be very hard to administer and represent the best loss of chance we had to get pokies under control.

    Although some very thin arguments have been raised by people with varying agendas, to dispute the ‘power’ of the transaction record’ argument in its potential to drive pokies reforms…the reasons to support it outweigh by far any reason to exclude it.

    I can only wonder who else may be appealed to, to bring sense to this issue now… since in most states…the Ministers for Gaming and the Ministers for Consumer Affairs are the ONE person? Surely that fact alone should ring bells that the transaction record was and remains the Achilles Heel of the gambling industry…in the industry’s opposition to ‘licensing’ and smart cards? After all there IS existing legislation from 2 acts at least…to support the relevance of ‘transaction records’ to pokies gamblers.

    There are already precedents in the world for the effectiveness of gambling spending records as protective tools…including the fact that all online gamblers receive one…and THAT area is growing? So online gamblers are not afraid of registration and transaction records at least? What ground was there for not including this well acknowedged safety tool? A poorly costed refit that might have been achieved more cheaply? That was nevertheless a normal business cost, in giving your customers proof of purchase?

    Meanwhile families and innocent people are still allowed to be harmed along with all pokies gamblers should they spend many hours in venues…who STILL have not got fundamental safety reforms.

  2. cyenne says:

    Libby, there’s a political reality to this situation that can’t be avoided. The knife-edge election was the only reason these reforms ever saw the light of day… and the numbers in Canberra are so tight that it was inevitable that concessions would have to be made.

    We’ve discussed transaction records and consumer law before, but these reforms would be dead in the water if they included the requirement to track poker machine spending on a person-by-person basis. The public is generally sceptical of having their spending habits tracked (I know that credit card statements and the like already do this); the required legislation would not pass and we would be back to square one.

    I believe that many clubs and pubs will turn to low-intensity machines to avoid the need for pre-commitment, and again, while a $1 max bet is not perfect, it’s a heck of a lot better than what is currently in place. Lowering the payouts will also reduce the lure of poker machines as a chance to “win big”; I remember playing the pokies in the later stages of my addiction, and I would bet bigger and bigger to try and win larger amounts, because I had lost so much. That same capacity won’t exist in low-intensity machines, and it changes the equation.

    Privacy laws are also in play here; no one can access their spouse’s financial records without explicit permission. A player spending record would be no different.

    I do agree that the fundamental design of poker machines needs to be addressed. Ultimately, however, I believe these reforms, if implemented, will significantly change not only the poker machine industry, but also the public’s perception of poker machines. This is the first time we’ve had real poker machine reform discussions at a national level; the public has been introduced to the idea at last. This won’t be the end of it, but I believe it’s a decent place to start.

  3. David Horton says:

    Hi Cyenne, good to see you are on the job on this. Seems to me that if we can’t even act to do something so obviously right as reducing problem gambling on pokies, then there is nothing that politicians won’t let vested interests stop. I had a go at the syndrome here http://davidhortonsblog.com/2010/11/02/addicted-country/.

  4. Libby Mitchell says:

    Tom I am totally supportive of any reforms as you would understand…any progress is good progress. A few issues remain though for me. It does not equate.

    It seems a ‘given’ that ‘provision of spending records’ to pokies gambling consumers must be so politically charged that the initiative would have failed.

    How was that decided so definitely? Gut feeling? Gambling industry advice? Asking a few consumers who probably do not even understand fully, exactly WHY a transaction record IS so important for personal spending management? I agree that these measures can still come in over time so all is not lost…I just have never felt that the public would be so disposed NOT to want consumers to get a spending record….for pokies gambling or any other purpose. I suspect that because ‘transaction records’ were presented wrongly as ‘tracking’…that ignorance and fear took over…

    There are a few pointers though that would suggest that the initiative would have been well received at government and also gambler and wider public level. I am not so sure that we can assume that the demand of pokies receipts would have killed the reforms.

    Firstly the Labor government put our new consumer laws in place in 2010 so presumably it had faith in the power and significance of that legislation regarding transaction records? Why then would the federal government oppose the idea now, to make the gambling industry conform to the new laws? After all if most pokies users are responsible, would it matter? If transaction records are deemed essential for all consumers by the federal government…why exempt any class of consumers? The govt would have been obliged to support the initiative now for pokies gamblers.

    Secondly, state Ministers of Consumer Affairs all helped to formulate that new national consumer legislation, all very well aware that it had significance for pokies gambling services (I wrote to each one personally)… so why would they have been so opposed now, to making the gambling industry follow the consumer law? After all they did make the national consumer laws…and could never have been at all confident that the laws could be side-stepped, simply because there is a body of support for the law’s application to pokies gamblers already. That material was not well studied I do not believe. It should have been.

    Thirdly, online gambling sites provide a transaction record for all online pokies gamblers so why are these online sites growing in popularity IF pokies gamblers were really so worried about seeing what they have spent? Responsible consumers always want to know that type of spending,…so where is the REAL problem of rejection, from the gambling industry viewpoint? Surely not on grounds that gamblers fear getting a transaction record? The opposite is in fact proven.

    Fourthly, in recent news media comments it has been a prevailing issue for harmed families, that they need greater information to be able to intervene more quickly to help loved ones from overspending. Public commentary frequently reinforces the public horror that a pokies gambler can lose his home without his family even knowing about it.

    SHOULD taxpayers and citizens give so much credence to ‘privacy’ rights…when others are harmed so much more visibly? Besides…should we pander to a system where a spouse can be so secretive…so private…yet so destructive? Overall, most spouses do not need a court injunction etc to see family spending documents either….so if families knew of the existence of pokies transaction records, most would simply ask to see them? No great privacy drama as you suggest perhaps, Tom.

    Provision of spending records is NOT to be confused with ‘player tracking’ that has such negative connotations. It often IS mentioned in the same sentence Tom as if the intent of the spending record is to merely PRY and SPY….but it should not be so linked, so easily with player tracking, least of all by those who want pokies service to be safer! Certainly not without saying WHY the transaction record is important…WHY we all need to know our spending to redirect our spending more wisely. Consumer safety issues should not be limited by erroneous paranoia.

    The same thing happens when people discuss smartcards…that for gamblers seem to be ‘dynamite’ but for all other consumers, they are tolerated…even fishing licences etc are quietly just accepted? So why any fuss about any pokies patron registration or a record of spending? Who is spreading rumors?

    I think that your assumption that the legislation would never have passed is not so well founded, if you examine all of the facts that point otherwise, especially where other pokies gamblers clearly already accept the same system without complaint. Did we see a howl of protest from gamblers about having to register online with their personal bank details provided, as well as getting ‘tracked’ as you suggest?

    What I suspect has happened is that the gambling industry has bluffed everyone into thinking that people hate being tracked…for its own purposes the gambling industry has set about ‘bagging’ anything that may get to its weaknesses…and that bluff has been transposed into a ‘given’…in this case, an assumption that people dislike transaction records. The responsible public likes getting a spending record…but I am sure it would hate to be ‘tracked’. Who however was EVER suggesting THAT? Or was it a paranoid moment of old guilt, old fear that made people presume that everyone would dislike getting a spending record, because some problem gamblers may hate it? Problem gamblers have frequently noted in treatment, their difficulty in controlling their addiction when they had no idea what they had spent….because they had been kidding themselves. Transaction records have been requested….and suggested as a safety tool…

    All up Tom…sorry…I must disagree in this case.

    Mr Wilkie has brought some valuable issues to the table and the progress has been a great awareness raiser. Nothing reduces that great win. Already Wilkie has won. He has brought ‘pokies problems’ into the open discussion arena. We should all be eternally grateful for that. Sadly I feel that Mr Wilkie may have been ill-advised. He had the chance to have all groups in the palm of his hand. He was in the position to ‘go for broke’ and instead he took smaller steps…

    Well at the end of the day that will be OK…we will win this war eventually….it just might have been now…not later.

    The biggest mistake was the decision to adopt an “Aussie” type approach…that fear of restriction. It just is not so true as people would have us all assume…or why did we not get street protests when driving or fishing licences were first imposed?

    There should have been mandatory registration for all gamblers in all venues for all machines, with the requirement for the industry to serve its consumers responsibly by providing a safer, less addictive, lower value machine product…then giving a receipt to show proof of spending. We HAVE the system in place…the loyalty systems. We COULD have used them better and the gaming industry would have been appeased also. All it required was a card that could be used to log into each venue perhaps….or a separate card for each venue. We already use many credit cards…no difference. At worst every pokies gambler could have received more than one monthly spending statement but ALL would have been properly protected as consumers. A similar plan is currently going through legislation in America. The gambling industry would have had no leg to stand upon.

    That position required no negotiation with the people who DO matter MOST here…the people…and Tom…the nation would have supported Wilkie…that 80% of citizens who have been begging not for reduction…but ceasing of harms from pokies!

    Anyway…onwards and upwards…we will now have to see if the reforms pass…as hopefully they will. We can work still on increasing consumer safety from all angles…but it would have been good to have progressed beyond the lowest denominators. That’s all. History will be written I am sure…but no Tom that time has not yet come in my view. It saddens me.

    In fact it reminds me of the story of the Emporor Who Wore No Clothes. We are sometimes afraid to say it how it is for fear of bruising egos in high places. A lot of stroking has also certainly gone on…or the gambling industry would have simply been told to toe the line. It is much on its knees world-wide…and we could have turned that fact to our advantage so much more today.

    Nevertheless I am ever hopeful that right will win out in the end. Thus I strongly believe that the reforms will and should go through. It is a pity they have lost the potential for a “WOW factor”….that would have empowered that 80% of people who wanted real action. The public, the families, the responsible consumers whom we seem to have forgotten, amidst ‘problem gamblers’.

    Now it will be business as usual for 9 out of 10 gamblers, including many addicted pokies users… and any new ‘low value’ machines will be a good nursery for breeding new ‘high value’ pokies gamblers. Venue management may be chaotic as people avoid or queue for specific machines…and how will the machines be shared equally? Will they have time limits or will one person stay on a machine for hours, that capping / queuing research suggests is very likely?

    Too many questions Tom…with too few answers as yet. I hope that we can all drag to a balance.

  5. cyenne says:

    David, thanks for dropping by… I’m familiar with the article you linked to, “Addicted Nation” is the reason I started following your blog and you on Twitter in the first place!

    You’re right, the “slippery slope” syndrome is insidious (apologies for the tautology)… it’s all too easy to allow a situation to continue to develop, year after year. My hope is that these reforms will act as a form of plateau for gambling regulation in this country, a launching point for further action in the years to come. Oh, I’m not talking about the death of the industry or outlawing gambling, that would be absurd… but poker machine design needs to be closely looked at, and online gambling also needs to be addressed. The scoundrels of this world have far too many tools at their disposal to make a profit at the considerable expense of others, with little thought of the trail of bodies and broken homes left in their wake. That has to change.

  6. cyenne says:

    Libby, there are many points in this matter where we will have to agree to disagree… won’t be the first time! 🙂 I confess to being far more optimistic about the outcomes of these reforms and the flow-on potential for future reforms; I believe that this is a significant step.

    I also still believe quite firmly that more stringent measures would have been doomed to failure. It seems every week or so that there is a new information scandal, the PSN disaster being the latest. Identity theft is rife, ATMs and EFTPOS terminals are being hacked to steal people’s financial details… there is definitely a wariness about having personal details tracked, especially when those details include financial information. Consumer protection and player receipts may come to pass eventually, but I believe that to tie them in to this proposal would have been a mistake. It would have been too much change, too fast.

    Don’t forget that while the general public supports poker machines betting restrictions in principle, most of them have not examined the issue as closely as you or I. They have only a broad idea of the situation, and rely on what they’re told rather than digging in and finding out for themselves.

  7. Libby Mitchell says:

    Tom yes we will just have to ‘slightly disagree’ lol.

    My way was less intruding in a way as all it did was continue and expand the current loyalty program system at no additional infrastructure cost to machines presumably…and effectively all it required was the addition of the pre-commit tool that we know is an ‘optional extra’ now….but still would have been very ‘optional’….in as much as every person could have pre-committed to some amount that suited them, as pokies users have suggested was required.

    Pre-commit was never the real problem…it was the decoy and was used to deflect from the real threat…full licensing. Using the new national consumer law would have achieved much the same thing without the ‘dirt’ as it was “JUST the LAW…so we HAVE to do it” (roll of eyes etc)

    Receiving a spending record should never be seen as ‘too much change too fast’ either Tom…it is already accepted as ‘part of life’…and is easily educated upon by responsible social marketing.

    Only yesterday I watched a morning TV program where a consumer management consultant was on TV explaining how to make a complaint about a product or service. He said…”First you must have your receipt and I am sure everyone knows to keep these more now…”.

    Pokies users AND their families could easily have been made aware of the new squeaky clean consumer laws that would have been seen as the ‘driver’ of change…not “politically enforced change’ that we NOW have…that has marred this reform package from the start.

    All that was required was an ad etc…”Oh here is what we all must do now as it is our new consumer law that everyone must get a transaction record so pokies must have that also”….and bingo the rest would have flowed easily. Just like fishing licences etc….”Oh it’s the law (grumble grumble)…but THAT would have been the end of the story!

    Instead we will have new machines, some with cards, some without, some people using one type of machine and another person using another…some people faking ID…others not…yes the same problems would and WILL occur but frankly now it will be a lot harder to police!
    Next we will hear that the card is some bloody ‘library card’ without a photo ID. So venues will sell those under the counter soon as look at us all…and the new reforms will be a complete and utter joke in the eyes of the public who was banking on a CURE…not some witch doctor’s chant.

    Wilkie’s reforms have been knocked to death by the gambling industry but note that 2 aspects…machine design and receipts have never been touched. Why? The industry is s%%t scared of these 2 aspects…as they are BOTH covered by our consumer laws…no matter what fancy interpretation is placed upon the word ‘transaction’ that may have suggested a way around the consumer law, in regard to receipts. It is rot. The Cash Transaction Act ALSO refers to casinos and gambling rooms as being ‘dealers in cash transactions’….and likewise the consuemr law is for all consumers…to cover all products and services and all cash transactions unless they are exempted. Besides legal rulings have already supported the need for pokies receipts…by CAV and a QC at least. That wasa precedent at least. A lot better than any cracked up lawyer the gambling indsutry might rock up with, who is all bluster…believing his theories and legal opinions will never have to be tested in a court.

    Mark my words…the gambling industry (AND the federal government) will right now if not prior be trying to get an exclusion from the 2010 ACL for pokies… and Wilkie could have beaten the industry at its own game. Could have got in first. He unwisely did not and now has it all aimed at his head….as being a ‘two pot stirrer’.

    Wait for kids to be in gaming rooms…as the staff will be less vigilant now than ever…believing that cards will keep them out. How will a person self-exclude if he is not registered? If his club has no ‘high value’ machines etc? We KNOW that people avoid self-exclusion…so why not MAKE them have that facility on hand that then they would silently use?

    Tom I simply cannot agree that this way is less invasive etc…it is MORE invasive as it is being seen politically…and every blue-blooded LIB/NAT will be waiting to can it…even the Greens said they disapproved of Wilkie ‘threatening the government to end before term’ etc….well that’s OK but what if the Greens do not support it?

    Sorry Tom…I love your ideas, love your passion…but this package will be a doozie and God Knows WHO recommended it to Wilkie but seriously arrogance lay beneath it in thinking it would be smooth sailing (or smoother sailing than using existing systems and existing laws to enforce a measure that would HAVE be seen to be OK…since all the governments APPROVED it.

    To try to bring in some fancy NEW hybrid scheme, that will be branded “NANNY” is folly…it is too confusing…also shows ignorance of political / social marketing. Sadly too many people obviously were too afraid to tell the Emporor that he wore no clothes on this one…as surely there has been wrongful use of ‘clout’ to ignore another, more reliable, less politically charged solution.

    Sorry Tom again. The better thing would be for problem gamblers who DO have a WEALTH of experience of gambling dens…to band together to fight even now to keep the pressure on, by using the new consumer laws. They could STILL be raised as a “Wait and there is MORE” initiative…Wilkie could save face and still get the laws passed while the state govt. LIBS and the federal govt AND the gambling industry sat open-mouthed! With nowhere to go!

    The public does not want to give an INCH on this reform thingie…read the comments in the Facebook ABC forums…”What do you think of the reforms?”…and “What do you think of the Clubs Campaign?”…The reader comments are electric with passion to make things firmer. THAT is the gut feeling that should have been followed Tom…those citizens may not know the ins and outs of a pokies den…but they sure as hell understand when they have clout. They have JUST LOST it! They know it…but do not know exactly why they have lost it…they just ‘know’ Tom….as one lady described the reforms as a “Dog’s Breakfast” and sadly she was dead right.

  8. Libby Mitchell says:

    I can’t stop this nagging Tom…

    Tom you said…” there is definitely a wariness about having personal details tracked, especially when those details include financial information. Consumer protection and player receipts may come to pass eventually, but I believe that to tie them in to this proposal would have been a mistake. It would have been too much change, too fast.”

    There is wariness in all parts of our lives Tom, from terrorism to toothpaste ingredients…and JUST as any registration / pre-commit scheme will make SOME people ‘wary’….the majority, MOST people CAN be reassured. That will sustain clubs etc.

    I did mention a difference between ‘tracking’ (that can be explained to consumers to calm them?) and ‘personal transaction record’ that needs no explaining since it already is in force via many avenues…eg credit cards as you suggest, online banking and any other ‘risk’ area…but we DO all MOSTLY still use these facilities and have accepted them in our lives…just as pokies gamblers COULD have done? So what ‘big change’ was there Tom and for whom? The gambling industry and their paid spinners?

    Most importantly Tom…could I please have your take on the fact that online pokies gamblers already MUST provide this information and yet MORE…So how do you explain the fact that the online gambling sector is growing rapidly, as we are told?

    More to the point…does that not prove that gambling consumers have already made the choice to NOT be over-fearful to the point of being paranoid if they have signed up online with not a whimper?

    Surely this is living proof that your fears of “too much too fast” sound logical but might not be, for MOST pokies gamblers, especially for the ‘responsible’ ones that the industry says will be frightened away from clubs?

    I find the gaming industry claims to be errant nonsense…yet you seem to have picked up on the ‘rare possibilities’ as being roadblocks to reform to support your arguments now…but are you sure?…when there has already been NO objection from pokies gamblers online and people are flocking there? As they could also do in Clubs?

    Yes I am pushing this point for an answer Tom…hence every post has raised it I think, lol…but I am wanting to hear your exact opinion. I understand that we can have differences of opinion. That is all fine. But I just want to hear yours on this…if that is OK?

    I am asking you as I believe that your response cannot possibly be convincing. So surprise me please?…as ‘agreeing to disagree’ can also be a polite way of getting out of an unwinnable position in an argument, albeit gracefully….and THAT seems to have happened in Wilkie’s case, sadly it appears now.

    Mr Wilkie has used his bows and arrows for now…and his big guns are…where? Where to from here Tom? Do we wait until the govt creates an exemption for the gambling industry to escape the demands of the new consumer laws? Then say “shucks’?

    Your post above mentioned the need for reforms to include address of online gambling and machine design…but why did you not include the very aspect that already has legal backing at least? The consumer laws. Don’t they need address also? Since the laws might be broken daily and run risk of amendment…shouldn’t that door be closed SOONER than any other?

    After all the other laws have yet to be made? They will also bring court cases if the gambling industry is to be believed…so why not go now for the jugular asap? Head off more dispute at the pass if possible?

    It is predictable and what the people are wanting. The Australian public understands receipts and consumer issues a bit more than it understands the Clubs claim that Wilkie’s laws are ‘unconstitutional etc…so why are Wilkie’s current reforms not being suggested as ‘too far too fast’?

    They are MORE likely to wind up in court battles, after all. At the end of the day, the gambling industry wants to ignore the CAV, a QC opinion, 2 Acts and a few basic definitions…PLUS the meaning / intent of the new consumer laws at its own peril.

    Consitutionality is ‘respectable’ maybe but to ignore consumer safety law is a bloody unGodly ‘sin’, especially for an industry that prides itself on its “responsible gambling codes”…a promise of good faith and highest service standards to its consumers.

    I would love to see the gambling industry take the consumer law issue to court and try to win it! They could not have a hope in hell….and would lose any last scrap of public respect that remained, in the process.

  9. Braveheart says:

    “Low-intensity poker machines have the following restrictions: $1 maximum bet, $20 maximum load-up and $500 maximum win.”

    If this happens with the low intensity machines, it is definitely better, Libby. The potential for great loss is less.

    I know that people on low incomes can still lose everything very quickly. I don’t know the answer to this except that we must continue to pursue our support and education activities. I have seen people on low incomes playing for very low amounts on the machines. Some seemed quite mesmerised and others seemed quite canny in their playing. I don’t think we really know enough about the patterns of usage amongst low income earners. I know that I used both high intensity machines and low level machines. Some of my biggest wins were on 2cent machines. These are deceptive in their own way because you go in thinking that you will not lose so much. Then the mesmerisation occurs and all good intentions forgotten :).

    Anything that makes people think before they gamble is good. Anything which can curb the impulse spending a little is good.

    There was always going to be a compromise solution to pokie gambling as it stands in Australia because of the powerful vested interests. I agree with Cyenne that without Andrew Wilkie’s interest, we would not have gotten this far. We still have not reached the end of this particular phase.

    I hope that it if we are successful in this phase we can move on to other fronts, especially those involving machine safety issues.

    I feel that compulsory pre-commitment may have helped me, as self-exclusion helped me towards the end of my gambling. Different approaches work for different people.

    The social solution I would like i.e. the removal of all pokie machines from suburban and country pubs and clubs just isn’t going to happen. The limitations currently being proposed will for the first time signal meaningful curbs on a voracious industry and give us breathing space to keep working for even better outcomes.

    I would like more attention now on how best to prevent people picking up the gambling habit and providing more effective long term support to those who have stopped. The latter is especially important, I think.

    I’d also like to focus next on the machine design/safety issue. These machines are being churned out regularly and we should be lobbying on the safety issue very strongly.

    As a light-hearted aside, there must be occupational health and safety issues in all of this for venue staff as well! Two staff members in a local venue told me the other day that the repetitive pokie tunes occurred even in their sleep and unguarded non-working moments and caused significant distress.

    There are a number of issues we can pick up on the safety front.

    Thanks to Tom and Libby and others for their continued work on these issues and for keeping the discussion alive for everyone.

  10. Libby Mitchell says:

    Braveheart I have calmed down quite a bit since I read the first news-described versions of the report, since the report itself provides for feedback and carries much more detail. The whole thing was a magnificent effort really.

    Yes I agree completely that Mr Wilkie’s reforms have been invaluable for awareness raising and communication AND for getting the ball rolling. I also agree with every reform suggestion including making machines less volatile…with one proviso.

    Hybrid schemes will cause venue consumer machine access problems and confusions unless the machine balance is kept very accurate and flexible. Next the venues will ask for more machines etc to loosen up the offerings.

    If people have to fight over machiens it will be diabolical…Queing theory was studied by the pokies industry. Their research stated that if people must wait for a wanted and scarce resource, that they will play longer, harder and faster. The research was used to support lifting of machine caps and is mentioned in the 1999 PC report. The process of making machines ‘scarce’ late at night in venues (when 9/10ths of machines are closed down early in a bid to supposedly do ‘housekeeping’ in venue opening hours)created ‘queuing’ and I am afraid that the same will happen if people must queue for ‘free’ machines etc. PLUS the machines must have a time limit imposed…to stop people ‘hogging’ them etc.

    I think that venues must be ‘one or other’ in machine offerings…to stop this potential. Venue staff will find it additionally stressful.

    However the crux of my objections lay at the essence of the problem…harmful machines….harmful delivery. BOTH these aspects are fundamental but the ‘dangerous product’ was only touched on…the ‘harmful delivery’ regarding the inability of any consumer to get a record of their spending, that lifts awareness and warns the consumer…was missing altogether even though the PC supported the introduction of receipts.

    These aspects are both well covered by our consumer laws…and since they do have ‘legal backing’ I would have thought it logical to use these first…? Not last or never depending upon opinion. It would have nipped a lot of the opposition arguments in the bud…after all the states and the federal government both made the new consumer laws that were passed 2010 and effective from Jan 2011. …and reference to these in WIlkie’s approach is a serious omission in my view. This is a GENERAL pokies gambling consumer issue as well…it is NOT just a problem gambling issue. Sadly it has been ‘distanced and narrowed down’ needlessly by keeping just one focus….

    All up I think that the Wilkie report is a fabulous resource for all of us and nothing takes away from the fact that Wilkie will get this through because ‘somethingHAS to be done’ etc…I just would have gone for the issues that could not realistically be argued against. Politically…the grey areas could have been wiped out more by throwing the onus back on the opposing governments…ie “Well you all made the bloody new consumer laws…stop your moaning…now carry them out” sort of style.

    Agree also re venue staff…also since gambling industry employees are the highest risk income group for pokies addiction I think that all staff should HAVE to be registered…There are huge OH&S consequences for venue staff and staff could very well initiate a class law suit against the gambling industry. Their jobs DO cause them to get addicted more often I am sure, so a better check on their safety is needed. Plus insurance companies etc would be likely to demand that the staff be registered.

    Currently when only some of the machines are included in the registration process etc…the employees and all other pokies gambling consumers are inadequately protected. I believe that public feeling IS strong enough to make the reforms firmer…ie MANDATORY registration for ALL pokies gamblers, for ALL machines in ALL venues…AND make machines safer by lowering the bet….and bring all other initiatives to the fore together…including transcaction records.

    We are under-estimating the moves in other countries also that are undermining the gambling industry especially in the US. I believe that the gambling industry is on its knees much more than it presents…as more regions block gambling developments.

    I just would have followed Norway or Singapore…both have mandatory registration, transaction records and pre-commit for all machines in all veneus….but Singapore does not reduce machine values etc…Norway has done so. Clearly it is time to license ALL pokies gamblers to ensure that they all get correct warning info. before they gamble…and Australia was too reticent in going for broke. The public support for that move IS there…and the gambling industry IS looking much more like the sham it truly IS…so loud sectional resistance could have been overcome I believe…

    However…no use crying over split milk or debating what could have been done…I am resigned to it now and I am very willing to work with it etc.

    I just believe that 2 givens are NOT givens…1) We will never get rid of pokies out of local areas….and 2) We will never get a referendum passed to BAN them.

    If the gambling industry does not stop misbehaving ….BOTH of those items will be TOP of the public agenda in my opinion….from what people are saying in news commentary etc..

    Wilkie has got the public in his hand and he must by now know his strenght…but he has to remain strong and he has left little room for firmer negotiation…

    BEST news was the recommendation to include casinos…a MAJOR strength of the whole package. Yes Braveheart…we are discussing together at last…and I am eternally grateful to Mr Wilkie for allowing for that development…and to all of us for listening to each other. Arguing the toss should not be seen as an insult or belittlement, but a meeting / joining of minds…to find the very best solution. All ideas are good…just our order / priorities may vary. I cn handle that but in some ways the strategic moment, the real WOW factor could have been more strongly brought to the table.

    At the end of the day the reforms WILL go ahead I believe…and it will pave the way for more action. Cheers and thanks…your points were really good and I enjoyed reading them xoxo

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