Sunday, September 23, 2007

NSW - The Gambling State

NSW is set to allow even more opportunities for problem gamblers to fill Treasurer Michael Costa's moneybag. On Fr 22-Sep, NSW Minister for Gambling and Racing told ABC Radio
"The Gaming Machine Act is under review and that means everything is under review, from harm minimisation through to poker machine entitlements. We are not ruling anything in or out."

NSW Hotels and clubs will be mighty pleased - they will be lobbying hard to allow extra poker machines. The government is likely to be sympathetic: it wants the tax revenue, especially given it is losing millions in revenue from lost horse racing, and might yet have to be seen to be supporting the industry.

The NSW government is also under some pressure over hotel trading hours, given the increasing levels of violence surrounding some big hotels, and nightclubs.

The NSW branch of the Australian Hotels Association has been a significant lobbyist of the NSW government. Electoral Commission data shows the owners of 2 hotels where there have been problems with violence have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the NSW ALP. Presumably they see it as a "business investment", and want a return.

All this comes at the same time as Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court plan to dump poker machines from South Sydney Leagues Club. There desire is driven by their recognition of the social cost of gambling, and the manner in which it is promoted: no sunlight (so patrons lose track of time), ATMs nearby, and the desire for clubs and hotels, and the NSW government, for ever more money from punters.

This is indeed a serious social issue, but the big players - the NSW government, clubs and pubs - have just one phrase: "show me the money"! Their cynicism in the face of significant social problems is nothing less than mind-blowing.