Thursday, June 22, 2006

Problem gambling at 50%?

A new study claims that up to half of poker machine players in Victoria are problem gamblers. What does 'up to' mean here? Under a reasonable definition of 'problem gambling' this estimate seems high - the Productivity Commission's figure (for all gambling) is 15%. This is high in itself and signifies a real problem - but the 50% figure seems too large. The difficulty with exaggerated claims is that they can bring about disbelief in more modest, accurate claims. I'll dig out this report, check the data and report back.

The pokies are a menace but it is plausible that more than 50% of Victoria's Labor Party and more than 50% of the State Treasury are problem gambling supporters. Instead of trying to show that the Labor Party in Victoria are a sleezy bunch of dirt throwers (who glorify suicide bombers and President Assad of Syria) Victoria's Liberals should admit they were wrong in seeking to expand gambling in this State (following foolish early moves by the Labor Party) and pursue the principled actions of the Greens to dramatically slash poker machine numbers.

This is a worthwhile even if problem gambling on pokies is 15% not 50%.


observa said...

In SA 'No-Pokies' independent candidate Nick Xenophon has been reelected to the upper house(with 2 quotas this time) Whilst in his last term he pushed for a reduction in the number of poker machines (some 3000 licences were withdrawn by the Rann Govt) pokies turnover and tax revenue has never been higher. If you want to judge Nick by results he's been an abject failure on this issue. Do we really think closing 20% of servos will reduce petrol consumption for Chrissakes? At some level of queuing it might, but is it realistic? We either agree with pokies or we don't. Personally I think access to repetitive gambling like pokies, preys on the most vulnerable and irrational.(rationally I want to be running them) I reckon the 50% figure is probably correct in the sense that that proportion of players is probably spending more than they should/could reasonably afford. The social costs of that flatten any tax revenue benefits from that IMO. Stick to 'non-repetitive' forms of gambling like lotto an geegees IMO, as it allows a quiet withdrawal period to assess the losses. Repetitive Scratchies and pokies mine the most vulnerable in bucketfuls.

hc said...

I like the general argument and agree with much of it. Repetitive gambling such as pokies seems to be incredibly addictive and socially harmful. I agree giving gamblers a break gives them the chance to break the hypnotic habit and assess their losses.

Nick X is a brave man and I like him for that. There is evidence that the demand for gambling is supply-determined. The story is partly that gamblers fall for environmental cues so, if they are not there, they don't gamble. The evidence you cite for SA very interesting counter - do you have a link? I'll follow it up.

The gambling experiment in Victoria a social disaster for the disadvantaged. Overwhelmingly blue-collar with most losses in poorest parts of the city.

I favour very heavy restrictions treating these malevolent chunks of technology as if they are radioactive waste.

Christine said...

Agreed problem gambling likely much higher on pokies than elsewhere, and it targets the vulnerable. My Nan was one of them. I do think closing down some places would have an effect - there is still a large social element to the pokies, and if there aren't many within a half hour drive of your place, or they're out of your neighbourhood, then you probably won't bother.

Patrick said...

Agree with problem gambling as a problem, agree with restrictions, etc...

first step to fixing a lot of problems is shut down the Age so that a large chunk of ignorance and partisan debris is out of the way...failing that just stop reading it...


observa said...

Some summary statistics and links on Nick Xenophon's site here
My figures of 20% or around 3000 machines withdrawn were from memory. The rub is that even with machine withdrawal revenue has never been higher. What happened was the pokies congregated ever more tightly in the areas of greatest profit-
"It is also clear that the gambling industry draws most of its profits from low-income regions of the state and from people on lower incomes. In 2003-04, for example, there were 22 gaming venues in Salisbury, taking in a total of $60 831 240. There were 48 in Port Adelaide/Enfield, taking in a total of $64 253 261, yet only 9 in Mitcham Burnside, taking in a total of $14 973 578 (Source: Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, 2002)."

"The IGA inquiry noted that while only 15% of South Australian gamblers are deemed to be 'problem gamblers', 70% of problem gambling in South Australia relates to poker machines. Furthermore, the Productivity Commission report of 1999 on Australia's Gambling Industry found that 42.3% of pokie losses come from problem gamblers."

Sorry, but I just don't believe it's only 15% of 'problem' gamblers that are losing 42.3% of the losses on pokies.($2 mill a day in SA) What that really means is 15% of gamblers are betting 42.3% of the turnover. That's bulldust because they wouldn't last. It's a bit like snapshotting income figures where you come up with negative incomes. IMO there are a lot more problem gamblers than that and a stroll into any venue any day and glance at the punters will tell you that.

observa said...

Yes it was a reduction of machines from 15000 to 12000 with no reduction in revenue,5936,18787585%255E26177,00.html

$667.50 in losses for every man woman and child in South Oz eh? None of it from my family or social circle and they tell me kids can't bet, although an awful lot of parents must be betting for them. Also in SA the profits go to syndicates of private lawyers accountants and doctors, rather than community clubs.

hc said...

Thanks for refs & site Observa - I will folloe it up. Its evidence that seems to contradict the conventional wisdom. If it is reliable it woulde change substantially the wat a lot of us think about pokie issues.

Concerned Parent said...

Now can we do some research on how much money problem health-freaks waste on nutritional supplements and organic soaps?

I bet it's in the hundreds of millions, and all gone to waste on useless shit when it could have been spent on their kids' education!

Won't somebody think of the children?

And don't get me started on all the money frittered away on Celine Dion albums.

hc said...

Thanks CP (Sam), I appreciate the cynicism.

There is evidence that repetitive gambling such as pokies is very addictive with rapid onset. People show that have self-control problems in relation to it by committing to self-exclude themselves from venues. In Victoria the pokies have been a disaster.

Joey said...

Nobody will ever stop gambling. Prohibition or restrictions against anything that people enjoy, just makes them crave it even more.