Thursday, 5 November 2009

Pokie Club's Garbage Infofest

Last night's 7:30 Report lead story was on how pokie venues breed new gamblers. During the segment, representatives of the pokie club industry made some questionable statements.

Click here to read a transcript of the 7:30 Report and watch the video.

1. Anthony Ball "Well, legislation already says that kids can't be in gambling areas or in bar areas for that matter. They are quite distinct areas of the club."

Legislation restricting exposure to pokies applies to NSW hotels but not clubs.
At the Burwood RSL pokies were located in the queue area for where they presented the ABC Play School event. Children filed right past the pokies on the way to the show.
I had a look at Sydney Juniors and found pokies located all over the venue including in the entranceway to the auditorium where they present family entertainment.

2. Question: "Do you think there is any harm in kids seeing or hearing poker machines?

Answer: Anthony Ball "No I don't think there is. Its akin to a kid, perhaps, seeing someone eat a Big Mac and jumping to the conclusion that they're going to be obese as an adult. It's nonsense."
The views of Professor Livingstone should not be discounted. Nor should the logic of what was presented during the 7:30 Report segment. Research is beginning to emerge. Here's an extract from a 2008 study by the Nova Scotia government:
"Even more important is the growing trend towards adolescents having increased exposure to high-risk gambling at a household level either online, on television or through adult’s gambling behaviour. Such exposure normalizes the behaviours and appears to be associated with increased harm and risk for youth."
This is not 'nonsense'.

3. Keith McCraw, South Juniors "The shareholders in the club industry are members in the community. And all proceeds go back into our membership and the community"

Have a look at the case of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club Limited v Commissioner of Taxation. Click here to read the case. This case was brought by the club seeking tax exemption. The club's own argument was that it was "A club established for the encouragement of a game or sport". The Queensland University notes on this case state:
"the Club's lawyers pointed out that approximately seventy to eighty percent of the Club's profit in the relevant years was returned to the South Sydney District Junior Rugby Football League Limited and "the Rabbitohs", South Sydney District's senior rugby league team"
So the proceeds seem to go to the Rabbitohs if we are to believe South Juniors own lawyers. But the Tribunal found that the focus was on the benefits of club membership.
"... the members were primarily or solely interested in the numerous and various benefits obtainable from membership of the Club"
Other than a 1.5% donation requirement, there was little to be found about the community. The question would be better answered by having a look at the Juniors' financial statements. Unlike other clubs, I could not find them posted on their web site.

4. Do the pokie losses raked in by Pokie Clubs outweigh what the Pokie Clubs put back?

The Productivity Commission report on not-for-profits stated:
"The other competitive neutrality issue raised is in regard to registered clubs and the considerable benefit they derive from concessional treatment of gaming revenue by their state or territory, benefits not available to hotels and other operators. Clubs do provide valuable community benefits through their support of community activities, but it is unclear that the benefit delivered is sufficient to warrant the concessional gaming tax treatment, given their impact on competitive neutrality.
The Commission has not made draft recommendations in these areas which will be subject to more detailed examination as part of the Australian Future Tax System Review."
That's the Productivity Commission's emphasis not mine. Click here to have a read. Go to page xxxi.

It would be a significant blow to public perception of Australia's Pokie Clubs if it were found that what they give back is not worth what they take out.

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