By Andrew Starke
Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s $3 billion poker machine reforms have been designed to deter recreational gamblers and will not stop problem gamblers from betting.
This is the view of the President of ClubsAustralia Peter Newell who this morning (March 23) told the National Press Club that the anti-gambling lobby was well aware that responsible gamblers will refuse to register for a license to gamble.
Central to Wilkie’s proposed reform is a mandatory pre-commitment technology system which forces gamblers to set limits to how much they bet on poker machines.
While the Tasmanian Independent has repeatedly said he is open-minded about how such a system would work, Newell is convinced that this would be the first step to poker machines being outlawed altogether.
“The Member for Denison is on the record as saying he’d like to see poker machines disappear altogether,” he said.
“But he admits that his ‘restrictions’ – his word – are a good step along the way to this ultimate extremist and prohibitionist goal.”
Peter Newell accused Wilkie and his followers of ignoring the advice of some of Australia’s leading gambling experts and welfare groups who he says have concluded that mandatory pre-commitment will not help problem gamblers stop betting.
“The Australian Government has seen plenty of evidence only in the last couple of months that this is a flawed proposal as far as helping problem gamblers is concerned,” said Newell.
“Australia’s leading academic on problem gambling, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, advised a Parliamentary Committee chaired by the Member for Denison himself that pre-commitment is unlikely to have a significant impact on the majority of problem gamblers, and may even exacerbate problem gambling.
“Common sense tells you he’s right, because problem gamblers are unlikely to set affordable limits and are likely to set high limits or none at all.
“And with regard to the absence of cost-benefit analysis, isn’t this an amazing way to make public policy on the run – announce a wide-ranging measure impacting on millions of people, and only after that perhaps look to see what it might cost.”
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