License to punt

“Bring On Pokies Reform” asks the question many of us want to know the answer to “So what happened to the license to punt proposal?”

Recently “Bring On Pokies Reform” submitted a story to the Gambling Help website

Because it was such a great question and the story offered some interesting insights, this blog is based around a response to Bring On’s story.

“So what happened to the license to punt proposal? Has the government fallen for the “licence to punt is un-Australian” line? I’ll tell u what’s un-Aussie, being a dead shit who can’t afford to go out for a few beers with mates because you’ve blown every cent on pokies. How about losing the great Aussie dream- house, family, friends. All gone because we can’t stop pressing those buttons, watching those lights, being intoxicated by those sounds and waiting in agonizing, excruciating anticipation for our luck to change. If ur playing pokies ur luck is going to run out. Cmon guys – let’s get everyone who is sick of this to write msg on here! Something has to be done. We are powerless against these machines designed to steal every cent. I wish everyone good and ask you to get fighting!

We’ll get onto a quick rundown on “license to punt”, but the most important thing to note here is that everyone who has problems with pokies (80% of people who contact Gambling Help) are NOT powerless. You can call 1800 858 858 anytime, talk to an expert over the phone or online, (via email or instant chat) see a gambling specialist, and leave the pokies and their misery behind. All of these services are free and confidential and they work. To play with your words a little Bring On, it’s the pokies that are shit and you can leave them for dead.

Here’s where the pokies reform is at…

The political motivation for pokies reform was that the Gillard government needed independent Andrew Wilkie to form government and his vote was given on the condition of action on the pokies – so that people would set limits on how much they would spend before they “played”.

His position was introduce some long-overdue pokies reforms, (reforms recommended by a number of Productivity Commission investigations into Gambling) including changes to poker machine technology and gambling policy so that the potential harm caused by pokies including that people could lose up to $1,200 an hour would be curbed.

While public opinion polls showed pokies reform was supported by around 80% of the population, the industry disagreed and spent more than $40 million in advertising telling everyone it wouldn’t work and it was un-Australian etc. There was lots of talk about lost jobs and how communities would suffer because pubs and clubs would go broke and close down. A lot of politicians were very uncomfortable.

All of that became less of a problem when the Gillard government got the numbers it needed when former Liberal Peter Slipper became Speaker, so they dumped Andrew, hit hold on pokies reform and now while there is talk every now and then about problem gambling and pokies, there is little real action.

The Gillard government pokies reform bill was “watered down” according to the Greens who wanted to put through another bill and nothing much has happened. Neither the Greens nor anti-pokies senator Nick Xenophon agrees to the Government’s new plan, so it’s doomed in the Senate and unlikely to go anywhere.

Somewhere in the new bill is a trial of technology on pokies so that people can set limits before they “play”. Originally the trial was supposed to take place in Canberra starting in February next year but no agreement can be reached and it won’t surprise you to hear that it will delayed or be shelved if there is a new government.

The industry and Gillard government can’t agree and one of the reasons is that Clubs ACT reckons the government will have to give them $36 million to compensate them for lost revenue during and after the trial. There is still debate over how the technology will work and if it will be ready by 2014.

Clubs ACT Chief, Jeff House, is on record as saying “I’m waiting for parliament to pull its collective finger out of its collective arse.”  And Bring On, that about sums it up!

What now?

What all this tells us is that people will act to protect what is a very profitable industry. In Australia, pokie player losses are more than $12 billion a year. We all know that this money is taken from everyday people’s pay packets and frequently at the expense of household necessities like gas, electricity and food. The money ends up in the pokies where the venue (casino, pub or club) keeps it and provides some to the government in tax.

We know that around 60 per cent of the money lost is fed into poker machines by the 600,000 people who play them each week, and 95,000 of those people are considered problem gamblers.

Bring On, many people agree pokies are designed to “intoxicate”, they are certainly designed to make money for the venues and they often cause agonizing and excruciating problems for people who have lost control over how much time and money they spend on them.

What’s luck got to do with it?

Bring On, pokies aren’t about luck. They are computers operating programs designed so that the chances of you winning big are less than 1 in 1 million, each and every time you press the button. Their lights and sounds are geared to keep you in the zone, to keep you giving them your money, as you say to steal every cent.

It’s within your power to say no, to not give them your money. Yes get fighting, start with that first $1 you don’t put in, get free specialist help to support you in the battle (click here for free gambling help services near you, make a deal with your mates and all deny the pokies any more of your money.  Help each other and build a great Aussie dream that doesn’t include the pokies.

You can also self-exclude from venues (ban yourself and Gambling Help can assist you with this), join Get Up campaigns and other pokies reform groups and write to you local Council and local MP and let them know you want something done. All the best Bring On and everyone else looking to fight the pokies.

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