Australian Clubs, Pubs, Gaming Biz At War With Gvt, by Greg Tingle - 4th December 2010

G'day maties. It's another jam packed report focusing on “down under” Australia. It's all about the Aussie pubs, clubs and gaming industry at war with the government, and they get ready to bring the fight, and campaign like hell. It's the gaming lovers VS the gaming haters. Media Man and Gambling911 with the latest and greatest from Aussie land...

Australian Clubs, Pubs And Gaming Industry Prepares For War...

Aussie clubs, pubs and the gaming sector at large are getting ready for a major campaign against the Julie Gillard Government and her friend in politics, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, over their cunning plans for pokies reform.

The pending war in being described by some commentators as not totally unlike in nature to when the old Labor Rudd government went to war with the mining sector.

Wilkie on the Parliament floor snatched the Government's backing for the introduction of "mandatory pre-commitment technology" (for all gamblers playing the pokies in clubs, pubs and casinos)!!!

Wilkie spruiks the clubs are "peddling lies" and he's not concerned about their plans to campaign against pre-commitment technology.

Clubs Australia, the main body reping for down under's 4,000 or so clubs, has likened the looming wrestling match to the Rudd government's battle with the mining industry over the resources super profits tax.

Clubs Australia chief executive Anthony Ball tells us that as with the minerals tax, there has been a serious lack of consultation about the gambling reforms.

"What I do know is that there was a lack of consultation before a very big decision was made which would have serious knock-on effects for the mining community and if that's what happened with mining that is what has happened with clubs," Ball said.

"We certainly weren't consulted about that deal and we saw it on Sky News when the press conference happened."

Wilkie has made it clear he will walk from the Federal Government if P.M Julia Gillard does not bring in "mandatory pre-commitment technology"...a system where every one armed bandit player will be required to register using a "smart card" or some other technology to have their playing habits... yes, their habits, human behaviour tracked. Big Brother could be seen to be watching to get in mind of the player!!!

While the exact tech does not quite exist at the time of print, Wilkie is inviting Clubs NSW and Clubs Australia to work out a system together that will help ensure every pokie machine across the country is connected. Yep, Cleopatra, Black Rhino, Gone Fishing, Where's The Gold, Big Red, Pink Panther, you name it Casino Jack. This means a "problem gambler" could not jump from one club to another, to try to sidestep the Big Brother system, and their spending limits would be capped - stopped, dead in their tracks.

Clubs Australia is not keen on "the system", and is currently preparing for a major campaign aka war, next year.

The clubs have appointed 10 delegates to shadow and lobby each federal MP, particularly Labor members in marginal political seats.

"What I do know is that I have been talking to a lot of MPs and senators over the past few months and I think there is a level of disquiet about it," Ball said. "They will handle the politics and yes, they do need Andrew Wilkie's vote.

"Everybody knows what the local club does; there is one in every suburb and certainly in every electorate. I think they have genuine concerns about this licence to gamble, this Australia-card solution. I think that the 10 million memberships around Australia will be worried about that."

The clubs' art of war strategy will ramp up before the NSW state election this March and before the important deadline PM Gillard set for the states and territories to agree to implement the reforms. Yep, Gillard is now setting deadlines, and it will be interesting to see if she meet them this time.

Gillard has threatened the states that if they do not introduce "mandatory pre-commitment technology" by May 2011 she could move to force their hand. The clubs believe this could see the tax revenue from pokies flowing to the Federal Government away from the states.

Art Of War Tactics On The Way...

Grahame Morris, a former adviser to prime minister John Howard and to the gambling industry, advised the Aussie clubs have the means to mobilise communities and resources.

Morris, the federal director of Barton Deakin Government Relations, says the power of clubs in NSW is enormous and marginal seat MPs would be nervous!

"If I was Prime Minister Gillard, I would think twice about taking on the club industry; they can be a powerful opponent in marginal seats. She could blow her government out of the water on this one community issue alone if she is not careful."

Wilkie says the clubs are spreading misinformation as part of a scare campaign.

"There are some in the industry who have been at least mischievous; some have been downright dishonest; some members of the industry are peddling lies and they know it.
Claims such as there will be fingerprinting technology, that there will be a national database and some of the figures they are using, they are making them up and they know it. They are deliberately misleading the Australian community and I think that is reprehensible. My advice to the industry is that the decision has been made."

Ball denies clubs are misleading people and says the only way to track players is to use "biometric data". Think Big Brother once again.

"They might call it a biometric identification or some other tricky term if you like, but ultimately players have to be identified under this system and they need to have their play tracked," he said.

Wilkie says the clubs are trying to galvanise support against the measures by scaring pensioners.

"Spreading this information as they are doing is increasing the heartache unnecessarily. For example, the claim pensioners are going to lose their pensions because the system will track their winnings - that is a downright lie. They don't need to lie. They need to work with us and come up with a better system."

Wilkie Means Business On Hard Line Approach...

Wilkie says he is "remarkably unworried about the pressure the industry is bringing to bear. "What the industry needs to understand is that they are lobbying the MPs as though we are having a discussion of whether there will be or won't there be poker machine reform. The decision has been made. There will be unprecedented reform on poker machines and problem gambling in Australia. They can lobby all the politicians until the cows come home but it won't mean anything because the decision has been made."

Footy clubs, RL clubs are not going to take it lying down. Chris Hart, a supervisor at the Steelers Club in Wollongong, says he is wearing a badge opposing the changes because he believes they could cost him his job and pay packet.

"I am wearing this badge because it is part of a campaign against the mandatory pre-commitment changes and it involves a customer having to scan their thumb on a machine so they commit an amount of money and once they reach that limit they can't do it anywhere else in Australia," Hart said. "I really think it will have a devastating effect on clubs like this."

Emma Sumner also works at the Steelers footy club. She says mandatory pre-commitment won't work and the club could close down if it is forced to implement the new technology.

"It isn't a good idea because we will lose about 40% of our revenue and it means we can't support out local team, the Illawarra Dragons," she said.

Sumner reckons that she sees problem gamblers in the club but does not believe anyone can intervene.

"When you work in this industry you do see people and you think how much money have they put in today, but then again it is really none of our business ... it is their sort of business."

Clubs say they are happy to support pre-commitment reforms (as long as they are voluntary) and they are calling on PM Gillard to meet them to discuss the issue.

Readers, if you have a put, know your limits, and stick to them.

How did you find the report today? Offer your opinion in the Gambling911 forum.

If you have a bet, bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a Special Contributor to the Gambling911.com website and proprietor of Media Man International

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They also offer political analysis.

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