Australian pokies clubs and hotels say that the new Australian Productivity Commission Reports recommendations would cost them $4 billion dollars to implement. Media Man and Gambling911 take the probe to the one armed bandits...with this free of charge report...
With new Australian Prime Minister Julie Gillard sworn into office yesterday, many campaigners, lobby groups and the like are attempting to strike while the iron is hot.
Media Man understands that new PM came into office on the same day that the Australian Productivity Report on gambling was released into the public domain. Coincidence or not? In the U.S its not that uncommon for various controversial and high stakes bills to be sworn in just before public holidays et al, and some folks call these happenings "Midnight Bills", a term coined to mate the cloak and dagger - art of war type practice.
The Aussie clubs lobby powers that be state upgrading pokies to meet Productivity Commission recommendations could cost up to $4 billion back! Yep, you read right. We reckon you could buy a few clubs, even casinos, for that sort of money.
The timing of last months pokies auction is curious also. The purchaser may have thought they got a bargain, but maybe not, if those pokies become useless or too expensive to bother upgrading.
Mr Jeremy Bath, Exec Director of Clubs Australia advised some smaller outlets with one armed bandits that could be say a decade old may not be able to afford to purchase new pokies that go for about $25,000 a pop.
"Manufacturers haven't been building them so they could be upgraded," he tells.
The Productivity Commission this past Wednesday made some 48 recommendations to tackle "problem gambling", including a $1 a bet limit on pokies, restricting to $20 the amount of cash a player could insert into a machine and a "pre-commitment" system allowing pokie lovers to set their own voluntary spending limits.
Ball advised technology that was very expensive to install and implement would not in fact end "problem gambling".
"The best strategy for problem gamblers will always be to ensure the counselling and education they need is readily available so they don't gamble at all," he said.
The GM of the Australian Hotels Association South Australian branch, Ian Horne, advised some of the commission's recommendations were "pretty confronting" and disputed by the industry because of the lack of evidence backing the claims.
"They basically say a lot of their recommendations are a leap of faith," he said.
"We don't want a leap of faith, we think we deserve something a bit more concrete."
The federal government has taken up just one of the commission's recommendations, which would allow gamblers to voluntarily set limits on the amount they intend to spend in a single gambling session.
Media Man believes that some of the report recommendations have merit, such as the setting limits point.
A Media Man spokesperson said "People enjoy playing the pokies and its no secret that a small percentage run into problems, just like some drivers have car accidents, some sports persons get injured, some people shoplift, some look for fights at clubs, and you get the idea. The problem remains, we are dealing with people here, not robots. Studies have shown that gambling addiction can be found in the genes - the human makeup - DNA. Machines are not the problem, just as guns are not the problem - people are... some people are just not suited to playing the pokies. If you make them illegal they will only go underground. Education and counselling are key parts of whats needed. For those people who think they may have a problem, stay away from pokies, or just don't even start. Of course, in the online environment some pokies can be played for free. In theory its simple, don't put in money if you have a problem, or think you might. Again, we're dealing with humans, not robots, so there's likely to always be some kind of problem behavior, as there is in just about every aspect of society".
The New South Wales Minister for Gaming and Racing, Kevin Greene, said he looked forward to working with the new COAG council, but appeared to signal problems.
"NSW will continue to play a leadership role in national discussions but we will not agree to any approach that diminishes the strict responsible gambling initiatives already in place in our state," Mr Greene said.
The clubs industry, which derives about 60% of its revenue from gambling, and poker machine manufacturers welcomed the government's response to the report.
While responsibility for gambling regulation lies with the states, the commission said that the federal government could use its corporations powers to regulate gambling machines if necessary.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who ran for Parliament on a no pokies platform, was far from impressed with the Government's response.
"The Federal Government's response on this report is nothing short of a disgrace," he said.
"We don't need more talk, we don't need more reports and reviews, we actually need action on this and the fact is the Productivity Commission - by recommending $1 bets - is a way forward to actually deal with this issue."
Some of Australia's most popular pokies include Cleopatra, Queen Of The Nile, Black Rhino, 50 Lions, Where's The Gold, Penguin Pays and Show Me The Money. Online pokies that enjoy strong popularity, many by PartyGaming in third party agreements with outfits like IGT - WagerWorks, Hasbro and Marvel, include Cleopatra, Sinatra, Monopoly, Thor, Rambo, The Incredible Hulk, Tomb Raider, Hitman and Mission: Impossible. That reminds us, Tomb Raider movie goddess, Angelina Jolie, is also strongly rumoured to be considering the lead in a Hollywood remake of Cleopatra. Her Brad Pitt has also been talked about for Mark Anthony. The movie remake would also be a platform to relaunch the famous 'Cleo' game titles. Richard Branson's Virgin Games and new Virgin Gaming is also understood to be getting Tomb Raider before year end. Only in Hollywood... and the igaming sector. Know the odds, and keep it fun.
*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911
*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of sectors they cover.