Friday, 17 October 2008

The Not-So-Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly

Finding out who is actually puts into action responsible gaming practices reminds me of the famous spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Except for one thing. There's no "Good". So far. For some atmosphere while reading this blog; click on this video of the famous theme music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.



With the PokieAct.org web site nearly finished, its time to have a look at the large pokie operators in the other states and territories. The first thing is to find out the identities of the pokie operators are. Then, see if these operators are luring children into their venues to expose them to pokie gambling at an early age. On the way, I'd like to see if they are meeting the voluntary codes of responsible pokie gambling.

I thought it would be easy to find out so that I could share the information. This is the golden treasure I'm seeking. However, it looks like the pokie bandidos and the sheriffs (the State and Territory regulators) want to keep this treasure to themselves.

Why should my quest have been easy? Please follow this argument:
  • Pokie gambling is an illegal activity that is allowed by the government. No person or company has a right to run a pokie room. Even when legal, I've not read anywhere suggesting that gambling on the pokies is anything but an adult entertainment.
  • The size and the complexity of the legislation that allows pokie gambling is immense. This immensity underlines the goal of Government to keep an eye on things.
  • A lot of those legal rules concern who is doing what with pokies. You need to know who is providing the pokies, who is running the pokies, and who is collecting the cash. If you don't know the 'Who', then Government can't make sure the business is being conducted honestly and responsibly. Government also wants to collect their taxes too.
So Government knows who all the participants are. You would think they would make it easy to find out who the players all. Most political speeches boast achievements of transparency and clarity. I take this to mean that its easy for the public to see what is happening.

Not so with the pokies.

Over the last few days, I've been searching the Internet to find out who runs what. Below is what I've found out so far.

The Not-So-Good - Northern Territory and Victoria
I first thought it might be easier to lift up Uluru and find out what's underneath than to figure out, online, who runs the NT's pokies. Have a look at this effort. I did call their Department of Justice to see what information is available to the public. The person I spoke to both courteously and enthusiastically promised to get back to me. I report twice (further down) on this blog as to the outcome. While there is still some unknown information about who controls what, the NT's web site impressively shows the gross profit at each pokie venue. I've not found that information from any State.
I hope they update that information for 2008.
In Victoria, the VCGR Website allows the public to search by venue, by licensee and by associate which provides the public with close to the full picture of ownership and control. It's the best of these bad boys. While the VCGR steps up and informs the public about associates (which is very helpful) it avoids leading you to the gold by not telling you why people and companies are associated, which venues they are actually associated with, and the nature of their control over the pokie venue.

The Bad - South Australia and New South Wales
Neither of these states tell you anything about control.
South Australia plays hide and seek. If you can guess the name of the licensee then there's a fair bit of information. Nothing about directors other than noting changes but not telling you who changed. Want to find out if Coles/Wesfarmer's operate pokies in South Australia? You have to type in Liquorland in the search box and information about their 39 pokies at the Hampstead Hotel is displayed.
New South Wales makes you pay. A lot. Check out the this ransom note:Yes, you added it up correctly... its over $1,800 to get a club and pub search and I'm not even sure if controlling interests are traced for this price. One good thing, Karen at the Sydney office is both polite and efficient.

The Really Ugly - Queensland
Queensland give you nothing about who runs the pokies. Remember that this is a state where one has to have a hotel license to be able to operate off license sales of beer, wine and spirits. So these ownerships affect a lot more than just pokies. After spending some time on their web site I called them up and sure enough, there is no public access to information about who runs the Queensland pokies. I did figure out a work around. Click here to see the liquor licenses search page. If you enter only the post codes, a list of hotels appear. Some hotels have extraordinary long operating hours and I'm going to guess that they are the pokies pubs.
There is no place to search by name of licensee. You have to seach post code by post code.
Ouch!
It's going to take me days but I am going to try and figure out how many pokie pubs Woolies and Coles/Bunnings run in the Sunshine State.


NT Update 18 October 2008
I emailed the NT people and asked them to :
"describe the pokie venues in the Territory, the number of pokies at
each venue and what persons and corporations control (either partially
or fully) the conduct of pokie gambling at those venues."
The speed of their response should be commended even though I was disappointed in its substance.
"I have consulted with a some of the senior inspectors and there is not a public register which stipulates what you are asking for. The website I have forwarded you is what is available to all, and if investigated have some questions you have asked- to an extent."

The website link sent to me is http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/licenreg/gaming/gaming.shtml . I could not find any answers although it seems that the NT gathers all the information.

NT Update 20 October
Again, with unfailing efficiency, the NT administration has come through. They sent me a link with information that's just over a month old. Click here to see a list of Community Gaming Machine Performance in the Territory. And you can click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of all the liquor venues. Put together these two documents and you get a reasonable idea of who are the licensees. The only part missing is who controls those licensees and I'm hoping that the NT will come through on this one too.
In the first post of this blog I graded the NT as 'Ugly'. They are Ugly no more.

One big reservation.
I may have missed something out. If this information is like my car keys, I'll never find it. What I am going to do is send a link to this blog to all the general enquiry email addresses asking them to correct the record.

It would be great to be fantastically wrong and find that a regulatory Clint Eastwood will rifle shoot the noose from my neck leaving me and the public to fall on a golden treasure of pokies information instead of an open grave of dry dirt.



No comments: