Will Work . . . Won’t Hurt

30 October 2011

Some of you may think that my recent silence here is because I have nothing to say.  Others, that is those who actually KNOW me, will know that’s unthinkable! 

Frankly there is so much happening in Australian politics at the moment that enrages me, I’m never really sure where to start.   I want to write a thesis on the carbon tax, the mining tax, the National Broadband Network and the poker machine reforms.  The Government is trying to deal with big issues, and trying to tackle social problems, but everywhere they turn they’re faced with the usual half-baked propaganda and the usual cries of “businesses will close and people will be put out of work”.  The Opposition as usual says they will overturn everything when they next get in power.

The latest and loudest cries at the moment are coming from the clubs in Australia.  These are difficult to describe to a non-Australian but the nearest I know to them anywhere is probably the working men’s clubs in the North of England.  They’re huge places with bars, restaurants and gaming rooms, with sometimes hundreds of poker machines. 

Gambling is a major issue in Australia and at long last the Government is trying to tackle the problem.  They’re trying to introduce a pre-commitment system on the larger machines (ie those where the bet is high and the winnings can be very hgh).  The clubs (and the Opposition) are up in arms. 

The clubs claims that:

1.   Income on these machines will be reduced by 40%.

2.   They currently give a percentage of their profits to sporting and community groups, particularly those for young people.  That would have to be cut drastically and some of these groups would close.

3.   It won’t work.  They’ve even launched a campaign and a website called “Won’t Work – Will Hurt” and are spending $40 million on it.

This has of course raised many thoughts in my head, such as:

1.   If gambling in poker machines is reduced by 40% that sounds great to me (and will show that the initiative is working).

2.   One club in Sydney has a $69.4 million a year revenue from poker machines.  They gave away $1.2 million.  About 1.72%.  Stop pretending you’re great philanthropists.

3.   Won’t Work, Will Hurt??  If it doesn’t work, their income WON’T be reduced.  If their income isn’t reduced, who will it hurt (except for the addicted gamblers)?

The donations and sponsorship argument is the one that I find the most offensive.  Does this mean that if I’m found peddling heroin at the school gates, I would be able to argue that 1.72% of my profits are going to help the underprivileged?  How about 100% of my profits?  The Mafia always looked after the widows and orphans – that didn’t legitimise their activities one iota.

One journalist recently put it rather well  in a Sydney paper “They are arguing that the continued enslavement of poker machine addicts is central to their business model”. 



  1. My father was a ‘problem gambler’ before Pokies were around in NZ – he played the horses and also was in a couple of card schools. This had very severe effects on our family – moving truks turned up to collect the furniture he’d raiased loans on more than one, and he lost jobs because if it – he was an accountant who was rather prone to ‘borrowing’ off his employer (of course he was always going to pay the money back from his winnings).

    I get really angry when I think of how much money the clubs make from gambling and how they dissemble about it. If they have $40M to spend on this campaign, they won’t miss the decrease in income if problem gamblers spend less.

    This cartoon sums it up for me: http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/opinion/cartoons/cathy-wilcox-20090909-fhd6.html

  2. Yes. Yes. Everything you’ve said, PomPom. The arguments against the pre-commitment legislation simply don’t stand up.

  3. Exactly. And M-H gives exactly the arguments that families fo problem gamblers (and often the gamblers themselves in the cold light of morning) would give.

  4. For me I still have childhood memories of seeing people lined up outside the clubs on Pension day (when I was heading to school).

    They way they have gone about this campaign (Clubs Australia) has made me quite sick to my stomach.

    I just keep thinking they are admitting that the majority of their revenue is from problem gamblers.

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