Saturday, October 14, 2006

Victorian pokie politics

Premier Steve Bracks has wimped it again on the poker machine issue.

In the leadup to the forthcoming state election Bracks has announced:

  • 540 machines to be shifted from poor to richer areas – less than 1/3 the level recommended by their own investigatory committee,
  • ATM’s in gambling venues restricted to dispensing less than $400 per day,
    maximum bets to be cut from $10 to $5,
  • restricting the amount initially paid into a machine from $10,000 to $1000,
    a cap of 10 machines per 1,000 adults,
  • winnings greater than $1000 payable only by cheque,
  • local councils being given the power to limit new poker machines,
  • spending $132 million on problem gambling over the next 5 years.

Better policies than doing nothing but not enough. When Bracks was asked why he didn’t introduce a more stringent cap he replied that it wouldn’t work since people would just play machines more intensively. If this is so it won’t harm the Gaming Minister, Tattersalls or Labor’s mates in the gambling industry. The truth is that with restrictions on pokie availability per capita gambling spending falls dramatically. Despite the substantially forthcoming budget surplus, Labor's mates in the gambling lobby have successfully limited any serious attack on this social menace. Heroes of the working class always!

The Bracks policies contrast with the stronger Liberals policy of cutting Victoria’s 30,000 machines by 5000 and the Greens policy of introducing cuts of 20,000. The Greens have rightly made gambling an issue in Victorian politics – the pokies have proven to be a social disaster in Victoria. The bidding war will eat into the Labor Party’s stranglehold on Victorian politics.

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