Three politicians have launched a ‘whistleblower’ campaign, ostensibly to encourage insiders in the gaming industry to reveal secrets with impunity to the “court of public opinion”.
Ambitious parliamentarians Andrew Wilkie MP, NXT Senator Nick Xenophon, and Greens Senator Larissa Waters yesterday launched their media-grabbing “Pokie Leaks” event, asking holders of industry knowledge to send them information, which they can “reveal” to Parliament under privilege.
They hope to garner undisclosed information on gaming industry tactics, addictive design features built into poker machines, and massive payments to politicians by an unnamed “lobby”.
The ‘Pokie Leaks’ initiative bears a resemblance to Wilkie & Xenophon’s mandatory pre-commitment campaign hard-balling the Gillard minority government in 2013, in that it has created the desired noise for its initiators.
“This information needs to be out there in the court of public opinion,” said Senator Xenophon.
“Avoiding this kind of scrutiny is exactly why the gambling lobby donated hundreds of thousands to the old parties in the federal election,” said Greens Senator Waters (no citation).
The Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) has dismissed the witch-hunt, noting the level of scrutiny, regulation and oversight the industry faces in all jurisdictions, and the generally inflammatory nature of ‘Pokie Leaks’.
“The gaming industry, government, venues and the community have been working together for years to create a properly regulated and responsible industry,” said the GTA’s release.
“The course of action being promoted today will do nothing to provide assistance to those who need it, unlike the venue and machine-based measures already in place to help address the incidence of problem gambling.”
Clubs NSW has found itself embroiled in the media frenzy after discontinuing a defamation-style case against the ABC. The national broadcaster aired a claim made by former federal MP Peter Garrett that in 2004 someone from Clubs NSW handed him an envelope full of cash.
Garrett later recanted, changing cash to cheque, and saying it came after his election. Wilkie described it as a bribe. Clubs NSW brought a suit against the ABC, and the Supreme Court granted the broadcaster access to the organisation’s financial records. The case was subsequently dropped, implying guilt according to the creators of ‘Pokie Leaks’.
“This is a typical Nick Xenophon publicity stunt, using his position in the Senate to advance his personal prohibitionist agenda,” says ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball.
“I’m sure South Australians would prefer their Senators spent more time working on issues that are important to them, like job creation and state infrastructure.
“Millions of people play poker machines each year safely and without experiencing any problems at all. Indeed, the rate of problem gambling in Australia is around half of one percent and falling.”
‘Pokie Leaks’ is supported by a court case against Crown Casino and Aristocrat, by Shonica Guy, who was present at the political launch yesterday.
Guy is a self-confessed former “pokies addict” of 14 years. She and is suing the entities for misleading and deceptive conduct, particularly in relation to the popular Dolphin Treasure machine.
“The machines are actually designed to take your money; as soon as I touched the machine I was hooked,” says Guy.
Represented pro bono by lawyers Maurice Blackburn, the case will reportedly centre around the uneven spread of symbols in the reels, and what is claimed to be a system in which losses are disguised as wins through images and sounds.