Independent news site Vexnews claim they’re “first with the worst”… and it doesn’t get much worse than the rubbish they served up today.
Following on from Craig Butt’s article in The Age this morning, about how Victoria’s poorest areas (specifically Dandenong, in the article) lose the most on poker machines and have higher machine numbers than more affluent areas, Vexnews have published a debunking article that compares poker machine expenditure with combined racing and sports betting expenditure.
According to the article, “KEEPING IT REAL ON POKIES: Moral panic on pokies continues to scale absurd heights”, Australians spend around $12 billion a year on poker machines, but spend a whopping $22.7 billion a year on racing & sports betting. This is the basis of the article’s subsequent slamming of those who agitate for poker machine reform as the “moral panic brigade”.
What a load of cobblers. This is pure fiction; for a website that claims “we get it right”, they couldn’t have got it more wrong.
Vexnews have compared racing and sports betting TURNOVER with poker machine LOSSES.
Here’s a basic example (Vexnews, take note). If you gamble $100 and win $75, the turnover is $100 and the loss is $25. It’s a pretty simple concept.
So while the combined racing and sports betting turnover amount of $22.7 billion is correct, the combined racing and sports betting LOSSES for the same period were just under $3 billion… less than a quarter of annual poker machine losses.
Similarly, given that poker machines are designed to return a certain amount on average over time (between 85 and 90%), the annual TURNOVER on poker machines in Australia is upwards of $100 billion… again, more than 4 times the combined turnover amount for racing and sports betting.
This is not rocket science. What makes Vexnews’ claims even more bizarre is this: industry figures show that Australians lose between $18 and $19 billion on ALL forms of gambling every year. That’s less than the figures quoted just for racing and sports betting in this ridiculous article.
I think it’s time someone went back to school.
I appear to have touched a nerve, of sorts. Vexnews (aka Andrew Landeryou) has responded to this article with an update of their own (as mentioned in the comments below). That update is half as long again as the original article.
Apparently it’s wrong to compare poker machine losses with “any” other types of gambling losses… because other forms of gambling (such as racing and sports betting) involve a combination of “smart” and “dumb” money, a situation which doesn’t apply to poker machines.
There’s talk of “gambling addicts” doing everything they can to lose… which, they say, is their point.
David Walsh gets a mention; so too does The Age, a couple of times.
And Vexnews’ central argument is revealed: “Gambling is a cheap form of entertainment for most players.”
From that point on, the update goes downhill… comparing playing poker machines with going to the opera, for example. “Nanny state” gets a mention, and the standard phrases (“meddling”, “personal responsibility”, “patronising”, “elitist”, “zealousness” and so on) are dusted off and trotted out. I’m not saying they were applied to me personally; not implying that at all. But they do seem to point to a certain position, or agenda.
After wading through it all, I have just two questions.
1. If it’s wrong to compare poker machine losses with other forms of gambling losses… then why did Vexnews base their original article on exactly that concept?
2. If the central argument of the original article really was “Gambling is a cheap form of entertainment for most players”, then why wasn’t it actually mentioned in that article?
Sadly, there’s one key point that the update didn’t address, and that is why the original article chose to compare racing/sports betting TURNOVER with poker machine LOSSES. That was ignored.
So too was the difference between “gambling addiction” and “poker machine addiction”. Little things, such as how the majority of gamblers seeking help ONLY experience problems with poker machines (70% was the most recent published figure, I believe). Or how poker machines are the ONLY form of gambling that has been designed and refined, year after year, to addict. This wouldn’t fit comfortably into the “smart versus dumb money” argument.
Oh yes, and it seems they didn’t like being called “smug” either (although that happened on Twitter, not in the article). If I’d know they were that thin-skinned, I would have been more gentle.