Recent figures on gaming in Victoria have sparked a chorus of anti-pokies rhetoric unseen since the heady days of Wilkie’s crusade for mandatory pre-commitment.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation details the licence type and gaming revenue of all such venues in the State, and notes $2.571 billion for FY15 (incorrectly reported in media as $2.7b).

This figure is in fact down seven per cent on the total for FY12 – despite media reports of Victoria’s “growing gambling addiction”.

The far-from-impartial commentary spoke of the State’s “worst-affected” falling prey to venues, where they have “thrown money away” at a growing rate.

The VCGLR list does show that 19 out of the top 20 grossing venues are hotels (as opposed to Clubs) and that these average 94 machines.

However, overall the trend continues downward: $110 million less than 2012, with an average decrease across the top venues.

Kevin Andrews
Kevin Andrews

Simultaneously, Federal Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews is being accused – by way of tenuous association and an invitation to “follow the money” – of colluding with the gaming industry to “water down” regulations proposed back in 2013 regarding the “inherent danger of poker machines”.

Clubs NSW and Clubs Australia are being dubbed the donors of inappropriate contributions to the Victorian-based Menzies 200 Club, which backs Minister Andrews.

Back in 2013, while Andrews was in opposition and leading the Coalition’s poker machines policy ahead of the Federal election, Clubs donated $20,000, which was properly declared by the Menzies 200 Club.

Both this and a further contribution last year of $10,000 are likely to have been in the form of tickets to fundraising dinners and the standard networking events.

Minister Andrews office has responded, decrying the claims as “wrong and offensive”.

Ross Ferrar, CEO of the Gaming Technologies Association (GTA), told PubTIC the commentary and references to “inherent danger” demonstrate a lack of understanding of the industry’s realities.

“That remark shows ignorance about the people, processes, probity requirements, standards, regulation and legislation around poker machines,” stressed Ferrar. “And let’s not forget that mandatory pre-commitment was put up as a ‘silver bullet’, which has since been proven to be an expensive waste of time.”

Regardless of the media criticism, the fact remains that Victoria has systems to address issues with problem gambling that have arisen from the genuine desire by stakeholders to address community concerns – including consideration of the alternatives.

“The restrictions in place in Victoria are perhaps the strongest in Australia, especially when compared to online gambling,” said Community Clubs Victoria president, Leon Wiegard, who was quoted as reporting that the “self-exclusion and counselling programs were working well”.

Further commentary suggested that the collective industry was in fact “getting smarter” about its placement of poker machines – in apparent reference to an unknown overarching body that determined which venues were best positioned to take advantage of hapless punters.

Dangerous game

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