Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 5

After a lot of thought, unless Coles put in writing some substantive reaction to what I have asked them, there is no point in another meeting. Here's what I wrote them:
While both times are open for me, unless Coles are prepared to take the positive step of substantively responding in writing to the issues I emailed over 6 months ago, there is no point in another meeting. Such response should be provided well before any meeting so that it may be seriously considered. I have referred you to my correspondence by email and the same issues remain. I have also posted all relevant parts of this correspondence on my blog and mentioned this posting to you. To assist, I will again reproduce these issues:
Email of 15 December 2008
"Here's four simple steps that truly focus on problem gamblers, do not affect the casual gambler and would cost little to implement:
A4 signs advertising Self Exclusion. You do this in S.A. already. You have the facilities in all your venues.
Ban simultaneous play. Another S.A. requirement. A little staff training and an A4 sign is all that is needed.
Parking Rules - Some of your venues post rules warning parents not to leave their children in the car. Most do not. Here's a link to the Victorian Kidsafe resources web page. http://www.kidsafevic.com.au/index.php/Resources/Resources-Fact-Sheets Have a look at the pdf on Hot Cars and the sign on page 2 of the order form of current resources.
Place and maintain Gambler's HelpLine posters and cards in all toilets. This may well be the most effective measure.
Finally, I do commend to you serious consideration of creating wiki pages for each venue's responsible gaming practices."
Letter to Richard Goyder of 3 Novmber 2008
"1. Voluntary prohibition of children in venues that offer pokie gambling
2. Effective self-regulation of responsible pokie gambling practices in pubs and clubs."
Please note that this insistence on Wesfarmers / Coles providing substantive written response to the issues I raised as a pre-condition of any meeting was not taken lightly. With respect, your offer of listening and consideration provides no tangible progress. My hope is that this step on my part will result in your organisations making substantive, positive and constructive suggestions to improve your pokies' practices.
Refusing a meeting with senior Coles' executives is a serious decision.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 4

Last night coming home from looking at pokie pubs in Casey with a quick detour for a quality Andrew's burgers, I received a call from Robert Hadler who is General Manager, Corporate Affairs - Coles Supermarkets.Mark had passed on my matter to Mr Hadler who said that he was new on the job having started in February 2009. Mr Hadler came to Coles from the Australian Wheat Board and NAB. Click here to read an article about Mr Hadler's background.

As he undertook to do, Mr Hadler emailed me with his contact information. He indicated responsibility for community and sustainability issues. He stated that he could not promise quick or full action on all the issues I had raised but could "promise that we will listen and genuinely consider" my views.

Here's my response:
"Robert,

Thanks for your contact.

Rather than forward you all the emails, I suggest that you have a look at my blog where I have posted my correspondence with Wesfarmers / Coles. You will see that I wrote to Alison and Mark over 6 months ago. You will see that I wrote even earlier to Richard Goyder in November 2008 with clear requests. Since December 2008, I have been posting my concerns with other Coles' pokie practices.

All of these endeavours have received no substantive response. On the face of your email, it seems that no substantive response is forthcoming other than a consideration of my views.

If you want to talk about anything, please do not hesitate to contact me. Getting together next week is not too soon. As I wrote to Alison and Mark, it is important to note that all and any future correspondence with me should be considered as being 'on the record' notwithstanding any disclaimers you may place, particularly, on any email. I apologise again for this formal language but it is important that this process be as transparent as possible. It is my intention to publicise the process with Wesfarmers / Coles as widely as I am able.

Given the serious consequences that may have already occurred as a result on inaction on my suggestions; I believe that there is need for substantive positive steps to be made without additional delay. So that any meeting can be constructive, your early formal responses to my suggestions prior to any get together would be beneficial."
The quick response I got from Mr Hadler was to indicate that some other person would be in contact with me shortly to arrange a meeting.

The purpose of my whole endeavour is to effect positive change with respect to the presence of children in pokie venues. In the last 7 months my meeting and all my emails have had no effect. It would seem that Mr Hadler was unaware of anything I had proposed depite being on the job for over 4 months.

My thought is to take some step that will elicit action from Wesfarmers or Coles. It would seem that my best course would be to refuse any meeting unless Wesfarmers or Coles provide a written plan of the steps they intend to take. If they have no plan then there is no point in meeting.

On the other hand, if Wesfarmers / Coles are considering some positive steps, it would be simple for them to email their thoughts to me. Then, it would be great to meet with them and add whatever experience I have to make them more effective. Given the concerns expressed on this blog, signs warning about leaving children in parked cars should be erected immediately. The discontinuance of the KidsEatFree.com.au and The Steakhouse Gang web endeavours would be a terrific second move as these web sites did not exist when I met with Mark and Alison.

While I expect the readers of this blog are very very few, any input on what I should do would be respected. By posting here, all would be able to read and consider such advice. Anonymous posts are welcome.

I won't do anything until Tuesday. Lot's to think about.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 3

If only Mark and Alison had acted upon my suggestion a potential tragedy might have been averted.
You may recall from my last blog that I asked Alison and Mark to consider erecting signs warning parents not to leave children in cars as erected in pokie pubs and clubs in Victoria. You may also recall that I received no substantive response.

Tragically a child was left in a parked car at the Coles' associated MiHi tavern in Ipswich, Queensland. I am so concerned about this apparent lack of responsibility, I emailed both the Brisbane Courier Mail, ABC Queensland, Nick Xenophon's office and others in more or less the following terms:
"I was saddened to read the story about the MiHi tavern in Ipswich where an infant was left locked in a car while the father gambled on the pokies inside.

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25619188-3102,00.html

The Courier's report fails to report that the venue's own staff assisted in any meaningful way.

The Mihi pub is associated with Coles. It is one of their pokie pubs where they encourage families with children inside this pokie venue through their web site www.KidsEatFree.com.au

http://www.ourhotels.com.au/mihitavern/Home.aspx

It is also the same pub where robbers used a taser gun to stage a fake robbery. One of the accused worked at the Mihi as a manager. These reports reflect poorly on Coles employee choices as well as this venue's suitability for families with children.

In December 2008, I met with senior people at Coles and their holding company Wesfarmers. Following up that meeting, I wrote to them about the absence of warnings in their car park areas about leaving children in parked cars. Here's exactly what I wrote on 15 December:

"Parking Rules - Some of your venues post rules warning parents not to leave their children in the car. Most do not. Here's a link to the Victorian Kidsafe resources web page. http://www.kidsafevic.com.au/index.php/Resources/Resources-Fact-Sheets Have a look at the pdf on Hot Cars and the sign on page 2 of the order form of current resources."

One of the two people I met with was based in Victoria where the placement of these signs in car parks and pokie room entrances is the rule. Her position was Licensing & Regulatory Manager. I believe she was the senior person involved with compliance.

While I have not been to the Mihi, it is possible that no such signs were ever erected. I have been to only one Coles pokie pub since December (Kenmore tavern) and did not see any such signs as I suggested. I received no substantive response to my email.

My suggestion involved little cost and may have prevented this incident.

My view is that this sad event at the Mihi Tavern demonstrates that Coles is not a responsible operator of pokie venues.
The track record indicates that it is unlikely that my warnings will make the news. It is important to me that I do everything I can to minimise the harm that pokies impose and this is something I can do. Reflecting this intent, I also emailed Alison and Mark:
"As I wrote to you earlier, I see no purpose in clandestine campaigns. Accordingly, set out below is my email to the Brisbane Courier Mail. A copy was provided to Nick Xenophon's office.
A similiar email was also sent to ABC Radio in Queensland.
My goal is not to seek publicity for myself, rather to do what I can to minimise public harm from operation of pokie gambling."
What really worries me about Coles is what I read in this Queensland Times report and the statement of Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Williams.
"Snr Sgt Williams said the 14-month-old was allegedly left alone in a car in the car park of the MiHi Creek Hotel (pictured) at Brassall while his father went in to play the poker machines.

CCTV footage showed the father arrived at 12.44pm and went straight into the bar.

“A woman arrived and parked next to the car and saw the child inside,” Snr Sgt Williams said.

“She went inside the hotel and tried to find the father but no one paid any attention to her so she rang the police.

“A pair of detectives from the CPIU was dispatched Code 2 and they arrived four minutes later.

“One of the detectives went inside the hotel and yelled out for the father while the female detective stayed outside and hailed down a passing motorist to get a wheel-lock to smash the window.

“They were just about to smash the window when the detective brought the dad out. The windows were fully closed and the doors were locked.

“The child was highly distressed, sweating profusely, had a high body temperature and was wearing a urine-soaked nappy.

“It's disgraceful. Even in the cooler months, the temperature inside cars can reach very high levels.”
What should be of deepest concern was that Coles own staff, despite having video of the pokie gambler did not assist the good samaritan with identification.

She had to call the police.

Not only is this disgraceful and irresponsible; it's dangerous.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 2

The meeting at Coles Victorian headquarters was both informal and cordial. Alison Tehan had been an employee of ALH, a company associated with Woolworths' pokie pubs. Mark Triffit was employed in public relations with Wesfarmers and mentioned that he speaks with Richard Goyder, the Wesfarmer's boss.

I mentioned to both what I had seen in Queensland with the exposure of pokie sights and sounds to children in their eating areas. I brought up the situation at the Beenleigh Tavern. I recalled my observation of one person playing two pokies simultaneously at the Club Hotel Waterford. I told them about the lack of warnings on the entrance to the pokie room at the Everton Park Hotel. See below:
I have no doubt that they fixed the problem with this entrance. I also indicated my view that the Mansfield Tavern was unacceptable to have children present.

My recollection is that Mark assured me that it was their intention to do the right thing. He had not been to their Queensland venues and I suggested that he might want to visit some of the Victorian venues associated with Woolworths to get a sense of what I was talking about. He indicated that he would and get back to me with his impressions.

Here's my follow-up email:
"Alison and Mark,

Most importantly, thank you for your time and listening to my rants at your office. I am sincerely appreciative and completely respect what you said about trying to do the right thing. I am grateful for you putting together a venue list.

I am gradually posting my inspection notes for the Brisbane pokie venues on PokieWatch.org

Here are some Melbourne based Woolworths' associated venues that might be of interest to have a look at and why:
Lyndhurst Club - 513 Lygon Street, East Brunswick - Older venue restored. Not presented as 'family friendly but provides a good adult gambling environment
Croxton Park - 607 High Street, Thornbury - Another older venue restored. Features range of entertainment. One of the worst placements of play area I have observed.
Meadow Inn Hotel - 1435 Sydney Road, Fawkner - Playroom recently added. Aggressive children's advertising. Promotes its rooms at $80 per night for up to 4 people.
Pascoe Vale Hotel - 12 Railway Parade, Pascoe Vale - Promotes Kids Eat Free offers. Pokies visible and audible.
Ashley Hotel - 226 Ballarat Road, Braybrook - Either a new pub or one that has been gutted and restored. Observed families dining during last inspection with kids staring into the pokies area. Dining area has KENO displays and integrated with pokies area and sports bar.

I can also commend to you to visit the Woolworths associated venues in the City of Monash; a capped region. Just go to www.PokieWatch.org and type in "Monash" in the search box on the top left. You'll see a range of suburban venues from the Hawthorn FC's Vegas located in a mall to complexes like the Village Green. This area is more like the areas where Coles/Liquorland Brisbane venues are located. Woolies have applied to increase the number of pokies at the Matthew Flinders to levels prior to the imposition of the cap.

I do appreciate some essential differences between Victorian venues and pokie venues in other states. There has not been a Victorian restriction on pokie sound and vision. Many more pokies are allowed in Victorian venues.

Detailed consideration of how to effectively exclude children from a pokie gambling experience will await the results of your inspections.

The people at Woolworths suggested that national standards would be beneficial. I agree. To start with, here's four simple steps that truly focus on problem gamblers, do not affect the casual gambler and would cost little to implement:
A4 signs advertising Self Exclusion. You do this in S.A. already. You have the facilities in all your venues.
Ban simultaneous play. Another S.A. requirement. A little staff training and an A4 sign is all that is needed.
Parking Rules - Some of your venues post rules warning parents not to leave their children in the car. Most do not. Here's a link to the Victorian Kidsafe resources web page. http://www.kidsafevic.com.au/index.php/Resources/Resources-Fact-Sheets Have a look at the pdf on Hot Cars and the sign on page 2 of the order form of current resources.
Place and maintain Gambler's HelpLine posters and cards in all toilets. This may well be the most effective measure.

Finally, I do commend to you serious consideration of creating wiki pages for each venue's responsible gaming practices. They take little time to produce and even less to maintain. It will enable all to see the practices in place without the need for extensive travel. It would be an innovative step that will allow positive public interaction and enable true transparency. I would be sincerely honoured to work on and implement a moderated model at no cost whatsoever."
Unfortunately, my stated concerns about lack of signs in car parks warning parents not to leave their children in parked cars may have had real consequences.

More about that in blogs to come.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 1

This blog marks the beginning of an active campaign with the goal of removing children from the presence of pokies and gambling from the pokie pubs associated with Coles / Liquorland and their ultimate holding company Wesfarmers Limited.
The bulk of Coles' pokie pubs are located in Queensland. Click here to see a list of Coles' associated hotels.

Contact with Wesfarmer's began as a result of a unexpected meeting. A mate and his wife had been staying with me and we had talked about my involvement with kids and pokies. He, in turn, has passed the conversation on to a workmate of his who had been a contemporary of mine at university. At a dinner, late last year, that workmate mentioned my activities to Richard Goyder, the boss of Wesfarmers. I obtained Mr Goyder's address and wrote to him on 3 November 2008. Here's what I wrote:
"...I am aware that through your Liquorland division your company operates 85 hotels, mainly in Queensland (the former Hedley group) most of which offer pokie gambling. During my involvement with Goundrey Wines, I was fortunate to able to work closely with the Hedley group management.
Your assistant was kind enough to provide me with your post office box and I’ll take this opportunity to summarise my activities. My focus is twofold:
1. Voluntary prohibition of children in venues that offer pokie gambling
2. Effective self-regulation of responsible pokie gambling practices in pubs and clubs.
Kids in Pokie Places
Unlike adults who are free to make whatever adult entertainment choices they wish, children are not able to make such choices. To this end, I have created a web site to engage popular support for the issue. The website is www.PokieAct.org
Even before it was launched, I have had success with this measure. Tabcorp Limited has agreed that children should be banned from their Victorian pokie venues. For details, please see my blog on the matter at http://blog.pokieact.org/2008/10/tabcorp-agrees-to-make-pokies-places.html
Although in its early stage this campaign has been endorsed by leading national pokies opinion makers, Tim Costello and Senator Nick Xenophon.
You are likely aware that, irrespective of participation, over 70% of Australians unfavourably view the pokie gambling business.
I believe that it would be in your company’s interest to take a leadership position and voluntarily take this progressive step with respect to children and pokies.
Effective Self Regulation
I believe that there greater the transparency about responsible gaming practices, the more effective those practices will be.
To date, my efforts have been largely confined to comparing the statements of Woolworths’ Michael Luscombe on responsible gambling practices to the reality of their associated Victorian pokie pubs and clubs. I have posted his stated standards and the results of my inspections on www.PokieWatch.org. So far I have inspected over 90 venues, many of them on two or more occasions.
While I certainly claim no direct responsibility, there has been an improvement in Woolworths’ standards since commencement of the web site.
I have enlarged the scope of my examinations to South Australia where my visit included your Hampstead Hotel. In the coming weeks I will visit New South Wales and Queensland and include Liquorland pokie venues.
I would be assisted by a list of your associated pokie venues or any venues you manage on behalf of others.
It is my intention to compare practices at your venues with the responsible gaming standards put forward by each state. These standards form the basis of the suggested standards published on PokieWatch at http://www.pokiewatch.org/page/Suggested+Code+of+Conduct
Should your Liquorland division have any published standards, I would be happy to take them into account.
Of course, any assistance you wish to extend to me with respect to my inspections would be helpful. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with gaming staff and the permission to take appropriate photos inside venues..."
I received the following response:While I have never heard from Mr McLeod, I did receive a call from Alison Tehan, the Licensing and Liquor Manager of Coles Liquorland inviting me to a meeting with her and Mark Triffitt, Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs for Wesfarmers Limited. That meeting happened in early December 2008.

My next blog will set out my recollections of that meeting and what happened afterwards.

Dr Zirsak Responds

Last week I posted Dr Mark Zirsak's email to me which contained an excellent plan for effective pre-commitment. Here's his response:
"This was intended to be private correspondence to build a working relationship and not for public dissemination. The fact that you have published this on your blog site without my consent or knowledge, now confirms my view that you are not a person it is possible to work with. I see no point in continuing any discussion with you."
That's a shame. Sure, his email disclosed points of disagreement.

However....

I get very little opportunity to speak with the media but when I do, I always try to speak to the value of pre-commitment. I also talk to other people involved with pokies. Without discussion, I will not be able to be aware of and therefore able to put forward Dr Zirsak's views. There's also the possibility that my suggested variations to his course of action might be helpful.

I hope he will re-consider.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Pawnshop in The Pokie Pub Part 2

A pokie pub that I visited in late May has been in the news. You may remember this picture from my 21 May blog of the pawnshop in the pokie pub:The Sydney Morning Herald reported a bizarre robbery at The Crescent.
"An elderly man who sought help to claim his poker machine winnings at a pub in Sydney's west was later allegedly robbed by the man who helped him, police say.
The 69-year-old Ambarvale man was playing the pokies at The Crescent Hotel, on The Crescent, Fairfield, on Monday morning when he won some money, police said.
Police allege the man asked a 39-year-old Fairfield man at the pub how he could claim the winnings.
The 39-year-old allegedly walked the man to the area where he could claim the cash.
A short time later the 69-year-old left the pub and walked to nearby Fairfield station where he was followed by the younger man who had helped him.
The 39-year-old allegedly robbed the 69-year-old of his winnings and then fled.
After viewing CCTV footage, police arrested the 39-year-old last night and charged him with robbery.
He was refused bail and faces Fairfield Local Court...."

Some pokie pubs are not just inappropriate for children. They're not safe either.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Salvos Respond.

On 26 April I blogged about the involvement of Woolworths with The Salvation Army and how I felt that these donations from a company whose revenue includes the proceeds of gambling compromised the Salvo's principles. Click here to read my 26 April blog.
I've received two responses and set them out below:
"With regard to the two principle issues you raised therein, namely, the involvement of Mr Roger Corbett with The Salvation Army, and our support and endorsement of the Responsible Gambling Awareness Week in Victoria, I respond as follows.

I need to correct your statement that Mr Corbett, formerly CEO of Woolworths Limited, is “a leading member of The Salvation Army”. This is not the case. Mr Corbett is not a member of The Salvation Army. He is an enthusiastic supporter of The Salvation Army, and its mission, and he chairs The Salvation Army’s Advisory Board in our Eastern Territory. This distinction between being a formal member of The Salvation Army, that is, to be a soldier in our Army, is not a trivial one. Hence the requirements as contained in our Positional Statement regarding gambling, which you cite. We do require our soldiers (members) to abstain from gambling, as we do, for example, from drinking alcohol or using any form of harmful drugs, including tobacco.

We do not, however, require people who volunteer to assist The Salvation Army in any number of ways, to accept these same disciplines. As such, we do not require this of Mr Corbett in relation to his generous donation of time and knowledge and experience in his capacity as Chairman of our Advisory Board in Sydney.

Further, with regard to your questioning of the rightness of our accepting a Woolworths donation of $100,000 to assist our service through the Oasis Homeless Youth Centre in Sydney, in the context to the Carols in the Domain event, we stand by our long-term relationship with Woolworths in relationship to this event. We do not live, as you well know, in a perfect, ideal world. We engage with a great many individuals and corporations who wish to support the service and community work of The Salvation Army in so many areas.

We ultimately believe that in the vast majority of these relationships the end result of the partnership is the good of the community and individuals who so desperately need help. We do not believe we have the luxury of knocking back much-needed offers of help and assistance because we hold a different opinion about aspects of their lifestyle, personal or corporate.

I do add, however, that we only accept specific donations from gambling related industries, or for that matter, from government revenues drawn directly from gambling taxes, for the purposes of assisting our addiction based community services.

With regard to your criticisms of our involvement here in Victoria with the government facilitated Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, I need to say that we have been engaging for many years now with successive Victorian State Governments about the issues surrounding problem gambling. Our official position, as stated on many occasions to the State Government, is that Victoria would be a better state without pokie machines. In conjunction with the Inter-church Gambling Task Force, our shared position is to call for at least a 50% reduction in the number of pokie machines in this state.

That having been said, we live and serve the community in the world of real politics. As such, we have been working to minimise the serious harm done by addiction to pokie machines while machine numbers remain as they are. We believe that harm-minimisation is a valuable approach to take to problem gambling and are pleased with many of the outcomes produced in adopting this approach, including the passing of the State Government’s latest Bill through the Upper House, just last week. You will be aware that this Bill contains very significant foundation steps to progressively introduce pre-commitment technology and processes to all pokie machines in this State.

We are pleased that through the direct input to State Government policy of our views on a range of problem gambling matters, firstly through the work of Mr John Dalziel on the Responsible Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council and now in the past three years the service of Major Brad Halse on this same Council and various working groups attached to it, The Salvation Army’s voice on behalf of those whose lives have been dramatically impacted for the worse by pokie machines, is being clearly heard in Government.

You are correct, only in part, in citing one of the four aims of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, as being “Gamble for the fun of it…”. What that aim says in totality is “Gamble for the fun of it, not the money or the win.” There is a big difference. I also point out the other three aims of this week of community education and public awareness: “Set a limit and don’t exceed it”; “Take just your allocated amount of money”; and “Don’t let gambling take over your life”.

Taken together, these four aims of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week are indicative of trying to raise awareness and educate the community about responsible gambling. They are about harm minimisation and in this regard we are happy to continue to support and endorse this particular week. It has not in the past prevented us from criticising Government policy re gambling regulation; it will not in the future.

Thank you for your interest in this issue. Inasmuch as we are both trying to minimise as far as possible the dreadful harms cause by gambling addiction, we are on the same side. We look forward to your support as we continue to work further to minimise the harms caused to individuals, families and the community.

May God bless you.

Sincerely,

James M. Knaggs
Commissioner
TERRITORIAL COMMANDER"
Here's the text of the email I received from Colonel James Condon, Chief Secretary of the Salvo's Australia Eastern Territory.
"Thank you for your letter to Commissioner Linda Bond regarding Mr Roger Corbett and Woolworths connection to The Salvation Army.

Firstly, let me thank you for all that you and your organisation do in this very important area of gambling and poker machine awareness.

Secondly, we note what you say in your letter and can assure you that we have had in depth discussions with Mr Roger Corbett regarding this matter.

There is another side to the whole story that Mr Corbett has shared with us. In the light of our discussions we believe that our association with Mr Corbett and Woolworths is not contrary in any way to our own positional statement."
I think the public should know the whole story that Mr Corbett has shared with The Salvation Army.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Taxes and Pre-Commitment

On 3 June I wrote to Dr Mark Zirsak (Chair of the Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce) setting out the text of my last blog. Here's his reply:
On the issue of taxes, the Taskforce has adopted a position that over time we want to see Government dependence on pokies revenue reduced, but not in order to deliver more profit to the gambling industry. The pokies industry has been grossly undertaxed in Victoria and has been able to extract monopoly rents. See the review that was conducted under National Competition Policy by Marsden and Jacobs, which estimated that Tatts and TABCORP were both extracting internal rates of return after tax of 20 - 25%. We want harm minimisation measures, and these will result in a reduction in revenue, but of the losses from gamblers we believe that there is greater community benefit from higher taxes rather than higher profits to the industry. Your position seems to be to see an increase in industry profit through a reduction in taxes.

I do not know how you can say you are for pre-commitment and then say you are working with Clubs Victoria. Let me assure you that Clubs Victoria is not supportive of an effective pre-commitment system. I think what they say to Government is far more important in terms of their position on pre-commitment. Perhaps you could point me to a public statement that Clubs Victoria has made in which they outline the features of the pre-commitment system they would support. As a benchmark, here are the features the Taskforce would ideally want from a pre-commitment system:

- in legislation

- On all EGMs that are linked together

- All gamblers must have an access device and that device must be consistent for all EGMs

- A gambler cannot use an EGM without the access device

- When a gambler hits one of their limits they cannot gamble for the remaining time the limit applied or until they change their limit, which would be a minimum of 24 hours

- The pre-commitment system will allow for data tracking of all gamblers (although this will be de-identified unless the consent of the gambler has been given for identification)

I fact have a look at the Clubs Australia submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry and the section on pre-commitment. The Clubs Victoria policy person said that the Clubs Australia submission to the Productivity Commission represented the position of Clubs Victoria.

I would ask you to consider that it might be more beneficial to actually take the time to talk to other community groups in detail before you launch into public criticism on your blog site or on radio. You don't have to agree with the positions we take, but it might provide you with information so you are not doing things like aligning yourself with the industry body that, in the opinion of many, is most opposed to any reform around pokies in the state (even other gambling industry bodies complain about how opposed Clubs Victoria is to measures to curb problem gambling).
My view is that making pre-commitment compulsory will go a long way to lessening the harm that pokies cause to pokie addicts. If the numbers are correct and that a large part of the revenue the industry earns is earned from pokie addicts, then there needs to be incentive for the industry to adopt effective compulsory pre-commitment which will reduce their revenue. Raising taxes does not address solutions. Providing incentives will.

Dr Zirsak and I obviously do not agree. I believe that lack of effective incentive lead to the Victorian Parliament pushing effective pre-committment procedures off for another decade. Notwithstanding, Dr Zirsak's views and solutions should be widely distributed.

Debate is good.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Local Government's Pokie Addiction

Recent developments in Victoria indicate that local government is about to become pokie addicts. Click here to read about the Moreland City Council.

What is proposed is that council rates will be raised on pokie venues by 100%. The report is that any new funds will be funneled into community grants - whatever that means.

The City of Casey are considering Community Benefit Contribution Agreements where money from pokie venues would be paid to programs such as children/family service programs or eductaional, cultural or not for profit organisations.

This approach is wrong and is no different than the often criticised dependence of the Brumby government on pokie revenue.

Instead what councils should be doing is talking to the pokie operators about measures like removing children from the sights, sounds and promotion of gambling at pokie venues thereby halting the normalisation of pokie gambling. At the same time, councils should be following the lead of people like Greg Barber and insisting upon a program whereby mandatory pre-committment measures are installed in their local pokie venues.

Perhaps Premier Brumby could do the same at the Crown Casino. Instead of levying additional tax, he should have insisted upon manadatory pre-commitment for all pokie players. After all, Crown already has player loyalty mechanisms installed in every pokie. It would be relatively easy for Crown to take the next step.

Instead of focusing upon how we might better use the money taken from pokie gambling, its time to consider how we might better reduce the harm these machines cause.