Australian Gambling News Update, by Greg Tingle - 4th July 2011

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Australian gambling continues to be red hot. We've got political fun and games, sin tax, a Sin City game, casino developments, revamps, and more. Media Man with the latest and greatest from down under...

MP Xenophon And MP Wilkie Berate NRL Over Poker Machine Battle...

Independent MPs Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie have lashed out at the National Rugby League for its new advertising campaign denouncing the Federal Government's proposed poker machine reforms. The NRL has joined the campaign against the proposal to force punters to register and set daily betting limits. An advertisement attacking the changes and featuring league great Steve Mortimer will be broadcast at football games for the rest of the season. The NRL says clubs will have to spend $3 billion on technology to update machines that force punters to register and set daily betting limits. It says it will cost each club $100,000 per poker machine to install new technology. But Senator Xenophon says many machines already have the capability, and it will only cost $1,000 for those machines that do not have the technology. "If you want to play a high loss machine, where you can lose thousands of dollars an hour, then you'll need to sign up for pre-mandatory commitment," he said. "But for the overwhelming majority of those that play poker machines, people don't put more than a dollar per spin, it won't affect them by having a low intensity machine where the losses are much lower than current machines. Senator Xenophon says the NRL's advertising campaign is based on lies. "It's a bit rich for the NRL to be lecturing people about gambling issues when they haven't got their own house in order when it comes to gambling scandals," he said. "The NRL should get their own house in order before they start lecturing the rest of us about what should be done about gambling policy." And Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who designed the reforms, says the NRL has shown a disappointing lack of leadership in its decision to join the campaign against the reforms. He insists it is only clubs with a lot of problem gamblers who will be hurt. "Who could possibly argue that it's OK to continue relying on the cash from problem gamblers," he said. But the NRL says the survival of many of its football clubs are threatened by the Government's proposed poker machine reforms. NRL chief David Gallop says clubs play a vital role in attracting kids to rugby league. "Last year, clubs ran 1,130 junior rugby league clubs, and donated $40 million to help fund the purchase of football jumpers, shorts, socks, trophies, insurance, medical kits, referee outfits and ground development," he said. "There are any number of gambling options in the community but none which contribute to the community in the way that the clubs movement does. "Our concern is that these measures will not prevent problem gambling but that it will severely damage rugby league and other community sports." Clubs Australia president Peter Newell says the reforms cost too much to implement and would devastate clubs. "To the best of my knowledge, league clubs would lose anywhere between $1 and $2 billion if this were to go ahead," he said. "In any case it's not sustainable from a revenue point of view or from a capital point of view."In return for his support on the floor of Parliament, Wilkie won the Government's backing for the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment technology for all gamblers playing the pokies in clubs, pubs and casinos. But Clubs Australia declared "open warfare" on the Government, saying the changes will cost jobs.

NRL Joins Pokie Fight...

The NRL has joined a campaign to pressure the Federal Government into dumping plans for a cap on daily poker machine bets. The Government has promised to bring in a mandatory pre-commitment scheme under its deal with Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The scheme would to force gamblers to set an upper-spending limit before using high intensity pokies. The NRL will screen an advertising campaign warning against the reforms at football games for the remainder of the season. The campaign will feature former Bulldogs captain Steve Mortimer, who also once led the NSW State of Origin team. The move follows action by Clubs Australia, which has warned the new controls over poker machines will hit the economy hard. Clubs Australia chairman Peter Newell says the cap would starve rugby league of the financial support it relies on from the clubs. "Clubs have donated some $300 million to rugby league over the last four years," he said. "Mandatory pre-commitment, just to install it, will cost conservatively $3 billion for the industry and it will reduce its revenue by up to $6 billion." The industry wants the scheme to be voluntary. The Government also wants to set withdrawal limits for ATMs in pokie venues. Small clubs with 15 or fewer poker machines will be exempt from proposed gambling restrictions until 2018.

NRL Pro Pokies...

NRL clubs have joined the fight against pokie reforms, amid claims the game will be "forever changed for the worse" by the federal government's scheme. Former Doggies captain Steve Mortimer will head up a campaign against the proposed laws to force punters to register and set daily betting limits. The NRL campaign will air on the big screen at NRL games for the remainder of the season. NRL CEO David Gallop said clubs not only provide NRL teams with about $25 million each year but also play an important role in attracting kids to the game. "Our concern is that these measures will not prevent problem gambling but that it will severely damage rugby league and other community sports," Mr Gallop said in a statement. Last year, clubs ran 1130 junior rugby league clubs, and donated $40 million, he said. ClubsAustralia executive director Anthony Ball said if the government pushes ahead with the scheme the game of NRL will be "forever changed for the worse". "This new technology is a slap in the face of clubs, its members and the millions of people who love the game of rugby league," he said. "The government should be supporting sport, not killing it."

Former NRL star Steve Mortimer joins ‘It’s un-Australian’ pokies campaign...

Clubs Australia has recruited former NRL star Steve Mortimer to be the popular face of its controversial “It’s un-Australian” campaign to pressure the government on its plans to impose a daily poker machine bet limit. According to leading Australian newspapers the campaign aims to inform the public that the financial security of rugby league will be placed under threat if betting limits are imposed. The ads are to air in a week’s time, and will run until the end of the footy season. They will also be screened at State of Origin fan sites – First Fleet Park and King Street Wharf in Sydney and on the Gold Coast – and intend to reach a combined audience of 1.5m.

Press Release: NRL Clubs Speak Out Against Govenment Pokies Licence...

NRL clubs have thrown their weight behind registered clubs in their fight to stop proposed Federal Government laws forcing pokie players to register for a card and set daily bet limits.

A new ad campaign featuring former Bulldogs and NSW State of Origin captain Steve Mortimer will air on the big screen at NRL games for the remainder of the season to an estimated audience of 1.5 million footy fans, denouncing the Government’s mandatory pre-commitment technology.

The joint NRL/ClubsAustralia campaign highlights what rugby league, its fans and its future players will lose when clubs are forced to spend $3 billion installing mandatory pre-commitment technology on poker machines.

Leagues clubs in NSW, the ACT and Queensland fund NRL teams to the tune of $25 million every year with another $15 million donated to junior football. More than 400,000 junior and seniors play rugby league for a leagues club funded team.

ClubsAustralia Executive Director Anthony Ball said if the Federal Government pushes ahead with mandatory pre-commitment the game of rugby league will be forever changed for the worse.

“Clubs are crucial to the health and success of rugby league in NSW, ACT and Queensland. This new technology is a slap in the face of clubs, its members and the millions of people who love the game of rugby league.

“It’s clear this technology, which forces punters to register for a license to put even just a few dollars through the pokies, will starve rugby league of the financial support it has received from clubs for almost 100 years.

“The Government should be supporting sport, not killing it through a backroom deal with a Tasmanian Independent MP who doesn’t know the first thing about the importance of clubs to rugby league.”

NRL CEO David Gallop said that clubs played an important role in attracting kids to the game.

“Last year, clubs ran 1,130 junior rugby league clubs, and donated $40 million to help fund the purchase of football jumpers, shorts, socks, trophies, insurance, medical kits, referee outfits and ground development,” he said.

“At the same time licensed clubs continue to play a vital role in the success of clubs in the Telstra premiership.

“There are any number of gambling options in the community but none which contribute to the community in the way that the clubs movement does.

“Our concern is that these measures will not prevent problem gambling but that it will severely damage rugby league and other community sports.”

Former Bulldogs Grand Final winning captain and the first NSW Origin winning captain Steve Mortimer said he is furious with the Federal Government for selling out rugby league to the Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

“Rugby league is the greatest game of all. It provides so many children with the opportunity to play junior sport, to learn the importance of team work and prepares them to be good citizens in adulthood,” he said.

“Of course, many also dream of one day becoming a professional footballer.

“This technology on the poker machines will strip rugby league and other junior sports of hundreds of millions of dollars of support the clubs have always provided.

“Our sport would never recover from that sort of blow. That’s a legacy that should send shivers down the spines of Labor MPs,” he said.

Aristocrat Leisure And Clubs Australia Fire Up Gambling Debate...

The Australian gambling debate continues to roll on, with Aristocrat Leisure being the latest gambling company to weigh in with proposals as to how they think that the problem could be more easily regulated. Many see their proposal as one that is stuffed with self-interest though – including the man heading up the inquiry, MP Andrew Wilkie. The proposals put forward by Aristocrat Leisure encompassed many different points, but the one that was the most talked about was their idea for a “machine based” solution to end the problem of gambling addiction in the country.
This was due to their belief that a monitoring system – an idea muted by the government recently – wouldn’t be achievable by the government’s target of 2012, mainly due to the complexity of the task. In fact, their submission stated that this wouldn’t even be possible by 2014, therefore putting the whole overhaul of the system back by 2 years. The main reason why pro-reform figures see this announcement in a suspicious light is due to the fact that Aristocrat Leisure say they would roll out this system as part of their normal replacement cycle, which means that they would not have to interrupt operations in order to comply with any future regulations. This would obviously save the company huge amounts of money and would therefore ensure that their business remains a viable one through the period of change. In response to this scepticism, Aristocrat Leisure stated that a new pokie games machine retails at about $25,000, whereas implementing a software upgrade would cost them just $3000 per machine. This, they said, means that their suggestion in fact would cost them more to implement – therefore meaning that they have taken a cut in profits in order to assist those with gambling problems. In addition to Aristocrat Leisure weighing in with their argument yesterday, Club Australia also joined the chorus of businesses opposing the methods that the Australian government want to introduce to curb gambling problems. In a long statement they essentially said that the Australian government have underestimated the amount of work and logistics that will need to go in to setting up the system that they have proposed. They also stated that the system will have a hugely detrimental affect on the smaller clubs in Australia, who current only see about $25 worth of profit a day from each machine that they own. This, they say, means that the disputed figure for the amount of money the government thinks a machine will lose per day under new regulations - $1.50 – will actually represent a large percentage of income for these clubs. The final results of these inquiries are still very much in the balance, with both sides seeing significant numbers of support being gained in recent weeks. Stay tuned as the weekly saga continues. "Mr X" (satire) is not ready to give up, not quite yet anyway.

$700m Stadium To Be Built Next Door To Perth's Burswood Casino...

James Packer's Burswood casino in Perth will reap massive benefits from a final decision by the Barnett government to build the state's new football stadium on its doorstep. Premier Colin Barnett yesterday defied the recommendations of a taskforce to announce the $700 million multi-purpose stadium would be built at Burswood on the banks of the Swan River. He said another $300m would be spent upgrading infrastructure to improve access to the site, which is a brief walk from the casino. That includes a new pedestrian bridge over the Swan to link the CBD to the area so people can walk to the stadium, a new four-platform rail station, possible ferry access and road realignments. The Premier conceded the plan would benefit the casino, which is midway through a $500m upgrade, including installing hundreds more gaming machines after an agreement last year to pay the government a $20m fee and higher taxes in return for the expansion. Barnett said he had not discussed the stadium with Packer, except in a brief "casual" conversation when he told him it was the favoured site and likely to be built there. "He (Mr Packer) said, 'That will be good', and that was about it'," the Premier said. Construction of the new 60,000-seat football stadium will not begin for several years, and is not expected to be finished until early 2018. Barnett said the facility would be world-class and become the centrepiece of a new entertainment precinct. It would also cater for concerts and other sports. A spokesperson for Burswood said the group had not been asked for any financial investment in the relocation and construction of the stadium. Barnett pointed to the state's scandal-plagued WA Inc era as the reason for not asking Crown to contribute. "I . . . have a very long memory of the scandals in West Australian politics, and you don't mix business with public investment," he said. But Labor spokesman Roger Cook criticised the project, and said it was "a triumph for Colin Barnett's arrogance". "I think it would be extraordinary that the government would put a major piece of social infrastructure, upgrade all the road and rail infrastructure in the area, without approaching the casino for a contribution" towards the cost," he said.

Online Gambling Review Goes Ahead...

The last main link in the chain to online sports betting in Australia - betting during a match...could soon be lifted and deliver lucrative royalties to major sporting codes under changes being considered by the Australian government. Australia's major sports bodies, including the NRL, AFL, tennis and cricket, are lobbying hard to end the online in-play betting ban and the Gillard government has agreed to review the law. The move comes just 12 months after the government rejected a recommendation by the Productivity Commission to allow the "liberalisation of online gambling", and amid growing community concern about the link between gambling and sport. The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has been instructed to review Australia's online gambling laws and in-play betting is expected to be a key focus. Australia's major sports are calling for online gambling laws to be eased. ''Australia is the only jurisdiction in the world that allows online wagering on sport but at the same time prevents punters from using the internet to place in-play bets,'' a recent anti-corruption report adopted by major sports bosses said. ''The prohibition on in-play betting limits the funding opportunities available to Australia's sports. On international soccer markets … about 75 per cent of bets are made in-play, while for tennis about 90 per cent.''
The Australian Crime Commission has warned online gambling ''is an identified money laundering risk and increasingly is also acknowledged as a risk for revenue and taxation fraud''. In a submission released by a federal parliamentary committee also considering online gambling, the commission also warned ''Australia's criminal networks are able to identify and exploit opportunities for profit'' and ''this makes professional sport an attractive target''. ''It is well established that horse racing in Australia has been infiltrated by organised crime, with significant amounts of money being laundered through the horse racing industry,'' it found. ''This is occurring despite significant resources being devoted to monitoring the integrity of racing.'' The report found the integrity of professional sports had been compromised internationally, citing:

-Italian mafia and the fixing of soccer matches in Series A.

-Eastern European criminal groups fixing soccer matches.

-Russian organised criminal groups in soccer and ice hockey.

-Chinese organised crime or triads in large scale illegal gambling and match fixing of soccer throughout south-east Asia.

The commission said "the use of online gambling to facilitate criminal activity, predominantly money laundering, is a key vulnerability". A spokesman for Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said Australia's interactive gambling laws had not been reviewed since 2005. "Given this and the rapid changes in technology, the government felt it was time for a comprehensive look at the effectiveness of the legislation."

Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man reports for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies, gaming and casino wars.

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming. Media Man also publishes Media Man News

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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