NFPs Back PokieLeaks To Tackle ‘Predatory’ Industry
29 September 2016 at 10:35 am
Not for Profits are backing the so-called PokieLeaks campaign in a bid to crack the secrets of a “predatory” industry being slammed as “the Australian equivalent of the NRA” in terms of its political sway.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon, Greens senator Larissa Waters and independent Denison MP Andrew Wilkie launched the campaign on Tuesday calling on whistleblowers to come forward with secrets from the poker machine industry under the promise they will be protected.
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The political trio are hoping the move will bring to light confidential information “on rigged poker machines, illegal industry practices and dodgy donations to political parties”, that can then be made public using parliamentary privilege.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesperson Tim Costello told Pro Bono Australia News it was a “very positive move” as there were many people “of good conscience” working in the industry under the knowledge they had been enlisted “to design, develop and promote a predatory, addictive product”.
“This is an industry notoriously difficult to crack in terms of its secrets and its power so I think this is a very good thing,” Costello said.
“We are going about this in a number of ways… we have a court action about to begin against Aristocrat the maker of pokies and Crown Casino, we have obviously organised lots of public rallies and meetings to try and limit the damage that pokies do. So we have tried lots of different ways but this is another way, that gives people who are whistleblowers an opportunity to do the right thing with some protection.”
Costello said “the whole problem” in tackling the pokies industry was the amount of money that feeds into politics.
“The pokies lobby is the Australian equivalent of the NRA in America,” he said.
“The major parties… are completely captured by the political donations from the pokies industry, so they are not even free agents, they are just really extensions of the gaming industry, the pokies lobby.
“That’s particularly at state level because that’s where they return a $1 billion a year just to Victorian state government coffers so you don’t really ever expect, given the political donations from the pokies industry and the easy revenues state governments get, for Liberal or Labor to ever take a stand, but they are very sensitive to public pressure and that’s where it becomes mainstream.”
He said the pokies were an “addictive con”.
“When pokies first came in in 1956 in New South Wales you couldn’t do a lot of damage, so mechanical reels, they stopped randomly, so [it was] fair in terms of having a win, now they are virtual reels,” he said.
“Like guns in America, when the Second Amendment came in where a ball and musket, now they are semi assault weapons. Now with the virtual reels they are programed with so many lines, with so many addictive features such as losses disguised as wins that release the dopamine that hits the pleasure centre of the brain with the same force as cocaine or ice, near misses, in other words when you press the button on a pokie machine you have won or lost as soon as you press the button but up comes the first pyramid, the second pyramid, the third, the fourth, you only need the fifth and it’s always just above the line or just below the line, it’s called a near miss but in fact it’s a con.
“It’s designed to release the dopamine, hit the brain that you were that close, when as soon as you press the button you have actually won or lost.
“So when you think of roulette games, or card games or dice games you can’t rig those, you see immediately whether you have won or lost and those games are only ever a maximum of 1 per cent return to house, pokies its 10 per cent return to house and it’s a con, and it’s a con that is addictive.”
Australian Greens Deputy Leader and spokesperson on gambling Senator Larissa Waters, who launched the PokieLeaks campaign, said Australians deserved to know they were being ripped off.
“Australians lose $11 billion on the pokies every year, while the pokies industry uses scams, tricks and rigged machines which are designed to be addictive,” Waters said.
“If people have information about pokie industry scams and rip-offs which are hurting ordinary Australians, they can send them to me, Nick or Andrew to assist with our Parliamentary work.
“Australians deserve to know that they’re being ripped off, and we can help by exposing these dodgy scams in the parliament.
“Avoiding this kind of scrutiny is exactly why the gambling lobby donated hundreds of thousands to the old parties in the federal election.
“Until we get big money out of politics in Australia, the old parties will continue to serve their paymasters in the gambling lobby, and Australians will keep getting ripped off.”
In response, the ACT Greens have extended the PokieLeaks campaign to whistleblowers in the ACT and committed to putting any information into the public domain.
ACT Greens spokesperson for gaming Michael Mazengarb said the greens would “always put people before pokies”.
“Putting the community first means not only standing up to clubs, the casino and the Liberal and Labor parties to reduce the number of pokies in Canberra; it also means being a voice for the community in the Assembly when people have information about the gambling lobby that the public deserve to know about,” Mazengarb said.
“We know that here in the ACT, and around the country, political parties profit from pokie machines. It’s the people addicted to gambling that they hurt.
“Not only are we committed to ending political donations from the gambling lobby and getting big money out of politics, but we are committed to protecting whistleblowers who have information about these highly addictive machines and the industry that backs them.”