QLD Pokie Plan a New Threat to Vulnerable – Report
Tuesday, 30th September 2014 at 4:21 pm
A Not for Profit review of the Queensland Government’s poker machine ‘red tape reduction’ initiative has found that the plan increases gambling revenue and is a threat to vulnerable pokie victims and any future reform.
The Anglican Church Southern Queensland’s Social Responsibilities Committee has released a Monash University analysis of the red tape reduction program on electronic gaming machines, which it says was touted by the Queensland Government as an exercise in reducing the administrative burden on operators.
The report found the planned changes would increase the level of harm to Queenslanders; encourage organised crime through less Government scrutiny; damage Queensland’s reputation as responsible regulator of poker machines; and enable a take-over of super clubs geared to make money.
“The level of harm experienced by Queenslanders from (the pokies) is likely to increase, and may do so significantly, particularly in more disadvantaged regions of the state,” report author Dr Charles Livingstone, from the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University said.
“Of course, were this to occur, gambling revenue is also likely to increase. This is of course a benefit to gambling operators and to the State Treasury.
“The original intention of the club, to provide a specific social or sporting focus, is very likely to be lost (and) the risks of increased gambling harm associated with this change are high.”
The report found the ‘red tape reduction program’:
Focuses primarily on measures that are likely to increase poker machine gambling.
Reduces harm minimisation protection for problem gamblers by increasing the amounts they can gamble, and can lose at one time.
Benefits large clubs and hotels at the expense of small community clubs, and have the added impact of creating a powerful lobby group capable of influencing public policy.
Enables the targeting low socio disadvantaged communities by removing boundaries to big clubs establishing in their backyards.
Increases community reliance on gambling funds to build roads and other infrastructure.
Encourages organised crime and money laundering through less regulation.
Social Responsibilities Committee chair, Rev Dr Peter Catt, said the State Government was acting as an “enabler” to problem gamblers by reducing harm minimisation strategies.
He said the program encouraged greater expenditure by:
Enabling machines to accept $50 and $100 banknotes (previously $20 note was the highest).
Enabling players to insert more money at one time (was $100 max now $200) which has the impact of giving less time to consider losses.
Enabling clubs to pay up to $5000 in winnings in cash (previously anything over $1000 was payable by cheque) which means more money can be put back into machines.
Encouraging the use of tickets as currency for poker machines, instead of cash, which de-sensitises gamblers against the amount of money being lost.
Dr Catt said a business model that depended to a large extent on losses from problem gamblers and the subsequent harm to individuals and families was unethical.
“Even proceeding on the erroneous assumption that harm is in fact limited to a ‘small percentage’ of the population, this approach effectively validates the great harm done to a few, for the mild pleasure, financial benefit and convenience of the majority,” he said.
“There are many historic precedents where this has proven to be a deeply destructive path for societies.
“The direct social and economic costs of poker machine addiction are devastating for the individual problem gambler. Those costs are multiplied when current and future impacts on family, friends and colleagues are taken into account.
“They are multiplied even further when broader effects on lost business productivity, crime, pressure on the health and welfare systems and other social and economic impacts are considered.”
Electronic gambling machine, or EGM, gambling was introduced into Queensland by Labour Premier Wayne Goss in February 1992. The main driver for the introduction of EGMs was to support ‘an ailing club industry’.
As of July 2014 there were approximately 482 club premises and a further 747 hotels in operation holding licenses to operate 42,674 machines. The total number of machines operating in club venues (54%) is slightly higher than hotels (46%).
The report said the estimated revenue of total gambling tax and levies for the 2012-2013 period was $1,046 million, of which gaming machine tax was $594 million (56.8 per cent).
It said that for the 2013- 2014 budget period, total gambling taxation and levies revenue is expected to grow by 3.6 per cent with all gambling related taxes expected to represent 9.1 per cent of all Queensland own state revenue.