Monday, 29 November 2010

Enough Pokies In Castlemaine

Tonight, arguably the best panel of Australian and Victorian pokie activists and researchers gather in Castlemaine. The goal is to inform about the application of the Maryborough Highlanders proposed expansion of their pokie business into Castlemaine.

Here's the full line-up:

Rev Tim Costello AO
CEO of World Vision and the voice of social conscience for many Australians

Sen Nick Xenophon
From running a small suburban legal practice to becoming Australia's leading independent political voice, Nick has battled the pokie industry for 14 years to eliminate the harm of these dangerous machines

Stephen Mayne
Australia's leading corporate activist and Walkley award winning journalist who has been provisionally elected as Victoria's first anti-pokie parliamentarian.

John Connor
A quiet shopkeeper who felt so strongly about the issue, he became the mayor of Macedon Ranges and successfully fought the pokies application for Romsey all the way to the full court of appeal of the Victorian Supreme Court. By the Romsey victory, the precedent for community involvement was set.

Dr Lorraine Beyer
Sustainable communities planner who created standard setting work in local council pokie policies.

David Pugh
CEO of St Lukes in Bendigo with extensive involvement with gambling and welfare issues.

Professor John McDonald
His University of Ballarat department is conducting groundbreaking research into the economic and social effects of pokie gambling on local communities.

The evening ends with all speakers participating in question and answer panel. For more information check out enoughpokies.org

Mr Hester, the leader of the Maryborough Highlanders' pokies push into Castlemaine was invited to attend when EPIC first raised the idea of informed community discussion. Here's a photo of Mr Hester, the Maryborough pokie club manager who seeks to bring more pokies into Castlemaine.
Mr Hester declined to attend.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Stephen Mayne Provisionally Elected

According to the ABC Live Guide to the Victorian state election for the Legislative Council seat of Northern Metropolitan, Stephen Mayne has been provisionally elected. Check it out!

Click here to view the whole page.

It seems that a primary vote of 2,999 that exceeded the Christian Democrats vote of 2,382, a margin of 617, allowed Stephen's carefully negotiated preferences with Joanne Stuart of the Independent Parents and Carers Group to kickstart and avalanche of preferences. This included the Greens, Family First, John Kavanagh of the DLP, the Sex Party and ultimately, the ALP.

The final tally left Stephen almost double the votes of the Liberal Party.

The potential cloud on the horizon is that 66.2% of the vote has been counted so the primary vote could change. Let's hope the present margin of 617 votes is too wide a river for the Christian Democrats to cross. Of greater concern is the slim margin revealed in Count 8 of 41 votes between Stephen and the Greens.

It will be a nervous next few days at Mayne campaign headquarters in Templestowe.

- Update -

As of 5:30 AM EDT, 29 November 2010; Stephen's margin against the Greens for Count 8 increased to 985! While there remains over 30% of the vote to be counted, this is good news and hopefully a trend.

On the other hand, I am a St Kilda supporter and fully expect disappointment at the last second.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Victorian Election

On the matter of gambling in Victoria there are three issues that should be borne in mind. They are listed in the order of importance:
  1. Eliminate the inherent harm of the machine
  2. Reverse the normalisation of gambling directed towards our children
  3. Stop the tide of pokie accessibility.
None of these steps need new studies, legislation or standards. There is already sufficient evidence and laws. Implementation requires only prescriptive enforcement of the existing legislation and enactment of Ministerial directions or regulations pursuant to existing regulations. It can happen at the stroke of a pen.

Point 2 includes the over-the-top marketing of telephone and online gambling.

To best assess the policies of candidates, click here to view the video of this week's gambling forum courtesy of the Mayne Report.

For what little it is worth, other than their admirable refusal to support a casino in Mildura, the Coalition's policies are inferior to the governments in that they will not accept the reforms of the Productivity Commission that are the foundation of present Federal ALP policy. But the ALP's policies, much criticised on PokieAct.org show a terrifying contempt for the Victorian public considering:
  • Victoria has the worst prevalence of problem gambling of any state.
  • 12,000 Victorian pokie gamblers contemplate suicide every year
  • 6,000 Victorian pokie gamblers stated that their gambling lead them to commit an act against the law.
It is nothing less than sickening to read that Minister Robinson blames New South Wales. How was New South Wales responsible for the Orwellian pre-commitment scheme that requires no commitment at all from the gambler or the silence on the vital $1 bet limit reform?

It was instructive to hear the Greens admit that when they had a chance to make a difference, they erred by allowing generic language to be inserted in amendments to the Gambling Regulation Act. Their policies going forward seem sound. One hope that they adopt the fervour of Tasmanian Green, Kim Booth to address the issue of the $1 maximum bet.

This writer stands with Woolworths / ALH in opposition to local councils levying discretionary rates against venues that operate pokies. Such levy will create a dependency at local government level upon pokie losses and distracts from the three substantive issues set out above that truly address the issue.

As one might expect, this blog wholeheartedly endorses Dr Lorraine Beyer and Stephen Mayne.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Crown Casino / ClubsNSW Disguise

The Productivity Commission found that cashless gaming may disguise the fact that people are spending "real" money on machines. As one might expect, cashless gaming is aggressively promoted at Crown through brochures and computerised terminals spread through out the casino floor. Here's what the brochure looks like:The New Zealand (Government) Gambling Compliance Group argued that cashless systems:
"... can preserve player anonymity and permit the rapid transfer of large amounts of money into gaming machines without breaks in play. These sorts of systems can exacerbate problem gambling behaviours by facilitating extended, continuous, repetitive and/or anonymous, emotionally detached play."
My opinion is that the permission to operate cashless pokie gambling at Crown runs contrary to both the Minister for Gaming and the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation's legal obligation to foster responsible gambling in the casino in order to minimise harm caused by problem gambling; and accommodate those who gamble without harming themselves or others.

Anyone who follows pokie news will be aware of the doom and destruction ClubsNSW predict if pre-commitment as undertaken by the Gillard government is implemented. ClubsNSW speak of enormous retrofitting of machines and lay-off of staff. Others speak to compromising the security of the machine by adding on technology.

My own inspection of leading clubs extensive use of cashless gambling strikes down these arguments as false.

Firstly, cashless gambling technology is an add-on.

Secondly, I have been informed that the cost per machine is about $1,000. This rate was likely achieved because of the size of the market. One would expect that the cost per machine would be similar should there be a similar mass market.

These facts reveal the hypocrisy of ClubsNSW position. When it comes to ripping more money from gamblers they have plenty of money to pony up but not when it comes to impeding their $800 million a year addiction to the losses incurred at their venues by problem gamblers.

Finally, cashless gambling also helps NSW reduce staff as the cash changing process automates.