Friday, 29 May 2009

Play School, Pokies and the ABC

My discovery at the Burwood RSL became national news. Click here to read the story and listen to today's The World Today report.

ABC management should be ashamed of their response.

1. To justify a practice on the basis that no one has complained about it is no justification at all.

2. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the actual venue I visited was the Burwood RSL. There are many alternative venues in Western Sydney. Rather than face the real issue, ABC management defend themselves with the issue of lack of venues in country towns.

3. Finally, the ABC defended itself by saying entertainment was separated from the pokies area. That's not the whole truth. At the Burwood, children are exposed to the sights and sounds of the pokies upon entry. If they have a snack afterward, they will be surrounded by them. The club even placed pokies upstairs where, I believe, children would line up for the show.

The ABC should not be associating its image, its characters and certainly not its child orientated programming, in any way, with pokie gambling.

Aware of Gambling Awareness?

Gambling Awareness Week is drawing to a close. If it was intended to reduce the harm from pokie gambling then it was a waste of money and time. If it was meant to introduce pokie gambling as a "fun entertainment" then it was a great success:This image is the poster of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. The message is that gambling is fun and that with these easy steps the gambler will be responsible. There is no mention of the harm that pokie gambling does to hundreds of thousands of Australians or any action on the part of the pokie operator to be responsible.

Compare this campaign where the goal is to make consumers aware of the harmful nature of another form of addictive entertainment:Real awareness of pokie gambling should have warned gamblers that pokies will ruin their career, their lives and the lives of their families and friends. Click here to read the latest true story from Pokies Cause Pain if you think pokies are any less harmful than Ice.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Pawnshop in the Pokie Pub

Fairfield in Sydney's west is one of the greatest areas of pokie harm in Australia. Check out this picture of the Crescent Hotel in Fairfield.Yes, it is a pawnshop incorporated into the pokie pub itself. While it was obviously closed when I visited The Crescent, I wondered if one could get instant cash from Crescent Lent. I wondered if you could cash a cheque. This would avoid any restriction placed on the hotel operator. What collateral does the Crescent ask for when lending money?

Do patrons of the Coles associated Fairfield Hotel sell their gold at Cresent Lent to continue their pokie addictions? After all the Fairfield is only about 250 metres away. What about Woolworth's associated Brown Jug which is a short drive down Station Street?

Click on the picture and you'll see an expanded version of this photo.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Burwood RSL Club Surprise

Last Sunday, Mother's Day, marked my first round of visits to Sydney pokie clubs and pubs.

Sadly, there were lots of mothers gambling at their pokies, alone. We watched one elderly lady run through more than $300 in less than 15 minutes.

One of the clubs we visited was the Burwood RSL where they not only had pokies placed on either side of the bar but also upstairs outside their function rooms. This club also marketed to families to bring the kids inside with family entertainment.
The producer of this concert was the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

It seems like everyone is using the pokies to enhance their bottom line. Even our ABC. This is simply wrong.

Monday, 18 May 2009

VCAT Appeal Lost

On Friday 8 May 2009, the VCAT heard the Gambling Commission's case that I had no right to appeal the Ballarat RSL decision.

It was an impressive turnout. The VCGR had its senior solicitor present and had briefed senior counsel. Even the Ballarat RSL had a lawyer turn up on their behalf. Their argument was that the Gambling Regulation Act strictly defined who could make an appeal to the Victorian Appeals Tribunal. I argued firstly that the decision of the VCGR was based upon a clearly incorrect finding of fact. Having regard to the Commission's clear mistake, that the directions of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria in the Romsey decision required both the Commission and the Tribunal to hear what I had to say. Here's the quote from the Supreme Court:
"There is nothing in the provisions of the GR Act to suggest that Parliament intended the affected community to have only a ‘limited ability to participate’ in the Commission’s (or the Tribunal’s) inquiry into a proposal for approval of premises for gaming. Less still is there any foundation for the proposition that the responsible authority is to be the sole conduit between the community and the Commission/Tribunal in the decision-making process."
I lost.

The Tribunal member found that the only avenue of review was to go to the Supreme Court. This avenue would involve enormous cost. It is ironic that the ABC reported only 2 days after my hearing that Justice Kevin Bell stated:
"the tribunal, although welcome, is not as easy as it could be to access"
My loss was in failing to access the review powers of this Tribunal.

The result of VCAT declining to review the bad decision of the Gambling Commission is not only a failure of the system to base judgements on correct facts; that's just legal stuff. Maybe inconsequential.

The result, in my view, is that City of Ballarat will now bear more losses from pokie gambling.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Steakhouse Gang

Here's the latest concept in pokie marketing from the Wesfarmers people who bring to Australia: Bunnings, a bunch of coal mines, Coles, Target and K-Mart:

The Steakhouse Gang promotes two Queensland pokie pub eating areas; one at the Bonny View Tavern in Bald Hills and the other at The Rock Tavern in Cairns. Click here to have a look at the web site.

The web site also has a page targeted to children where they can play an online game. The game involves setting a gun site against targets. Instead of shooting a bullet, the player shoots a pie. There is another page for colouring in the cartoon characters of The Steakhouse Gang. Site visitors are invited to print out the sheet and bring your coloured in and "show us soon" at The Steakhouse.

The Parties and Bookings web page invites children to sign up. You can download a party menu reproduced here:
You can make you own mind up about the nutritional value of what is being offered. Just click on the graphic to expand it.

The site also has a page under the title "Gangbuster! Kids Deals" where children are encouraged to sign up just like their parents can sign up to a player loyalty programme. There is no caution on this page to seek parental permission. Home and mobile phone numbers are sought. They even ask for the parent's mobile number.

The objective of this web site is to encourage children into asking their parents to take them to a pokie pub to eat. My guess is that the Coles people hope that the free game will go 'viral' and promote other children to do likewise. This is dreadful.

When I visited the Bonny View (2 December 2008) the front section of the pokie pub was under construction. This is what their children's play area looked like.
That was it. A wooden platform with a steering wheel under a verandah next to the car park. Richard Goyder and everyone else at Wesfarmers and Coles should be ashamed of themselves.