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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Andrew Wilkie's Poker Machine War

One of the reasons that Julie Gillard is still PM is because of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. This man is on a crusade against poker machine problem gamblers and wants to stop them putting their salaries, housekeeping money and old age pensions through the pokies. It's a worthy cause but his idea on how to fix it is flawed. He's threatened to withdraw his support of the government unless he gets his mandatory pre-commitment proposal through Parliament.

Naturally the clubs are worried and 10 NRL leagues clubs have said they will cut millions in funding to their football teams if the Federal Government goes ahead with its plan to limit how much people can spend on poker machines. Even the Salvation Army have pulled their support after it was suggested that clubs were prepared to bar the Sallies from collecting at their venues.

Like drinking, gambling is so entrenched in our culture, it's hard to imagine life without it. It's all around us and gambling online from the privacy of your own home is growing in popularity. It doesn't make it right but it will take a miracle to change the bad habit of gambling on just about anything, that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Now we learn that mandatory pre-commitment poker machines introduced in Norway in 2009 haven't fixed the problem. Problem gamblers over there almost doubled from 48,000 to 81,000.

Aristocrat has brought in a pre-commitment machine from Norway so it can design and develop similar machines here. It looks totally different - it has a slot for the player to insert a card and unlike the Australian plan where players nominate their own limits, in Norway there is a limit of $70 per day and $380 a month.

Big clubs will be forced to introduce the scheme by 2014 and smaller clubs by 2018. When you think about how many people clubs employ right across the country and how many kids and adults will miss out on sporting grants, it becomes a serious issue. Mr Wilkie shouldn't be allowed to hold the government to ransom on this, there is a lot at stake here.