By Andrew Starke
ClubsAustralia and the Australian Hotels Association today (April 11) launched a national campaign which brands proposed gambling restrictions as ‘un-Australian’ and committed to a protracted political battle.
President of ClubsAustralia Peter Newell said a political deal that sells out Australia’s clubs and pubs is ‘shameful’.
The Federal Government is pushing ahead with plans to install pre-commitment technology, requiring any person who plays a poker machine to register for a licence which must then be inserted into the machine whenever they want to bet.
However the Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, who is driving the policy change, said industry claims that recreational players would abandon poker machines under the new system were ‘baseless’.
While ClubsAustralia was today entrenching itself for a war of attrition, both sides claim to be acting in the best interests of the community in a debate that has at times appeared to centre on what it means to be Australian.
“The Federal Government is choosing to support one man in Tasmania over the 300,000 Australians that work in clubs and pubs and the millions of people who belong to a club,” said Newell.
“More than 5 million Australians have a flutter on the pokies at least once a year. These people are overwhelmingly responsible punters who are now being told they’ll need to register for a card even if they want to bet just a few dollars.
“Clubs and pubs will fight this licence to punt for as long as we need to. There is no end date for our campaign and if it needs to run until the next Federal election then so be it.”
The campaign began in earnest today (April 11) with advertisements in newspapers around the country as well as the launch of a website and video.
Later this month ClubsAustralia will take its message to billboards in the capital cities as well as on the Gold Coast and the NSW Central Coast.
President of the Australian Hotels Association (NSW) Scott Leach said making Australians register for a licence to gamble would unfairly punish those living and working in regional Australia.
"The majority of hotels with gaming machines are located in country and regional Australia. The bush pub and the communities they support will be devastated by the proposal,” he said.
However, in an address to the National Press Club of Australia earlier this month, Wilkie was in no mood for compromise.
“Clubs Australia has armed itself with a $20-million disinformation campaign and thinks it can buy its way out of these reforms to diminish problem gambling on poker machines,” he said.
“The industry might be loud and rich but it won’t win this fight because it doesn’t represent the millions of Australians who have been touched by poker machine addiction and are demanding this change.
“This is ordinary Australians standing up to drown out one of the biggest political campaigns the country has ever seen.”
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