Thursday, 17 March 2011

More Bad Gambling Commission Findings

The Victorian Gambling Commission never ceases to amaze in their ability to reject submissions that may impede the march of pokie availability to Victorian suburbs and rural communities. One of the arguments put to the Commission as a part of Jeremy Ham's submission to the Jan Juc hearing was that the presence of pokies in Jan Juc would lead to an increased incidence of crime. This was rejected without reason by the Commission in these words:
"the Commission does not accept that the case for increased crime and threat to the safety of the community of Jan Juc resulting from the introduction of gaming machines was made out."
Here's the case that was not accepted:
There is potential for the Beach Hotel to impact the community negatively by enhancing the likelihood of income producing crime. This can occur in 3 ways:
  • Gamblers committing crime to support problem gambling behaviour
  • Venue staff exploiting the gambling business being conducted at the venue
  • Crime committed against the venue and patrons
Unfortunately and despite the perceived good fortune of the Torquay and Jan Juc communities, it has been reported that a staff member has been charged with stealing $187,000 from the nearby Torquay Golf Club. Crime is not a theoretical possibility but is a real issue for the Jan Juc community.

The findings of the Victorian Department of Justice report into the relationship between income generating crime and gaming expenditure (“Crime Study”) are relevant. Given the finding that there is a positive association between gaming expenditure and crime, the Beach Hotel’s evidence that gaming expenditure will rise founds the likelihood that income producing criminal activity will rise in the Jan Juc community if the Beach Hotel’s application is successful.

The high SEIFA index for the Shire’s residents is not a mitigating factor. The study found (with qualifications) that there was a positive relationship between lesser disadvantaged areas and income generating crime (Section 5.2 on page 73-74) when viewed by reference to gambling expenditure.

The observation in the Crime Study that “ it has been generally found that the higher the income, the more likely it is that households gamble” fits with this conclusion even though those better off households may be under represented in the top gambling expenditure group.

A significant percentage of both moderate risk and problem Victorian gamblers were found to answer positively to whether their gambling had led them to do anything that is technically against the law in the past 12 months. Please refer to pages 217-218 of the epidemiological study undertaken for the Department of Justice titled “Problem Gambling from a Public Health Perspective” (“Epidemiological Study”). The percentages of 3.45% for moderate risk gamblers and 15.17% for problem gamblers were well above the total population percentages disclosed in figure 4 on page 53 of the Crime Study.

While the crime participation rates for moderate gamblers were below that of problem gamblers it should be recognised that there are many more people in this group of moderate risk gamblers. The findings from the Epidemiological Study must be read subject to the qualification that although an overwhelming percentage of respondents in these categories are pokie gamblers; the category includes participation in all forms of gambling.

Howsoever qualified these studies clearly indicate that there will be an increase of the likelihood of income generating crime if pokies are approved at the Beach Hotel. The issue is not whether there will be an increase but how much that increase will be. Taking into account the lack of disadvantage, the likelihood is significant as the incident at the Torquay Golf Club demonstrates and a negative impact.

There have been a number of Melbourne pokie venues that have recently been the subject of violent crime. These venues include the Cross Keys Hotel in Essendon, the serial robberies of Raylene and Anthony Szarvak, the veteran robbed in his driveway after leaving the Werribee Plaza, the pensioner attacked and robbed for her pokie winnings after leaving Geelong’s Norlane Hotel, and most troubling, the Westmeadows Tavern. The Westmeadows Tavern is most troubling because of its environmental similarities to the Beach hotel.

The Westmeadows Tavern is an attractive Woolworths / Mathieson associated venue with a family orientated “Western” theme. The public bar area is in a semi detached building. The pokie area is adjacent to a neighbourhood family bistro. The Westmeadows Tavern operates 42 pokies. Like the Beach Hotel, it is not adjacent to a highway. It’s operators have considerable experience. Yet on 25 June 2010, three masked men armed with a knife and guns demanded cash and ordered three staff and three patrons to lay on the floor. Given the combination of TAB, alcohol service and the pokie and bistro areas in one area at the Beach Hotel, there is likely to be significant cash generated. This is a worse configuration than the Westmeadows Tavern where the income generating sections of the facility are discrete.

The negative impact of the likelihood of crime is exacerbated by the intended conduct of the Applicant. There was no mention nor any evidence lead by the Beach Hotel as to precautions to be taken to minimise the likelihood of income generating crime being imposed upon the Jan Juc community should its application be successful. Not only does this omission impact upon an assessment of net detriment but also the suitability of the Applicant to be granted such a license.

The low-level security nature of the Jan Juc residential neighbourhood and the low-key business may well perceive the need to raise security standards. This will result in a negative cost impact being borne by the community.
A study by the forensic accounting firm Warfield & Associates about Gambling Motivated Fraud was released today. Click here to download the whole report. Here's the key page. Click on the image to read it in full size.

No surprise that pokie gambling is overwhelmingly the primary choice for gambling motivated fraud.

The Commission must consider crime as a negative impact of enhancing access to pokie gambling in Victoria's suburbs and regional communities.

1 comment:

Libby Mitchell said...

Great article Paul.

I am noticing that the newspapers seem to have missed the fact that 56 pokies-related crime cases were not 56 of 181 cases studied. That 56 was part of just 99 cases that indicated the precise form of gambling that was related to the crime.

The other 82 cases had no source mentioned...so all up the true rate of pokies related crime may not be a bit more than half...but could be nearer to 2/3rds.

The situation is obscene enough....but the unclear news reporting is often worse!.