May 2019 Gambling News! - Alliance for Gambling Reform

May 2019 Gambling News!

Gambling News: Sports gambling campaign, Megg Webb wins, Darebin RSL Supreme Court battle, veterans ripped off, Murdochs buy into Beteasy, SA prevalence study and awful “Pointsbet Stadium” deal

In this bumper pre-election edition of Gambling News, we share some of your sports gambling insights, celebrate Meg Webb’s Tasmanian victory, cover Darebin RSL’s Supreme Court battle with council, reveal how veterans get ripped off by the gambling industry, lament the Murdoch family’s latest gambling investment, cover the SA prevalence study and also look at the latest developments in NSW, including another lamentable stadium deal involving Pointsbet.

  1. Great response to Alliance sports gambling campaign for Federal election
  2. Pokies campaigner Meg Webb win balance of power in Tassie upper house
  3. City of Darebin takes Darebin RSL to the Victorian Supreme Court
  4. RSL campaign - how Tabcorp and Aristocrat rip off veterans
  5. Fox and the Murdochs get into the gambling business
  6. NSW update: more gambling fines, Pointsbet Stadium and poor pokies data
  7. SA gambling prevalence study highlights dangers of loyalty schemes
  8. Yarra motion going to MAV on strengthened venue Code of Conduct in Victoria

1. Great response to Alliance sports gambling campaign for Federal election

Earlier this month The Alliance launched our federal election sports gambling campaign pushing for a reduction in gambling advertising, similar to what happens with tobacco.

Curbing the deluge of gambling advertising is a key part of our federal election policy summary which has been sent to key political figures during the course of election campaign.

Limited restrictions on TV advertising starting on April 1 last year have clearly had little impact on the overall gambling advertising deluge. The Coalition have shown little interest in further reform but there’s hope Labor might take further action in a post-election review.

Alliance campaign director Margaret Quixley met with shadow communications Minister Michelle Rowland in Canberra last month.  

It’s clear to everyone, from politicians to regulators and gamblers, that sports gambling advertising has exploded in Australia. It’s more than just annoying being deluged on radio, television and online, it’s also harming our kids.

We’ve already had more than 1,100 people sign our petition and 130 responses to this survey - thank you! If you haven’t already, we’d still love to hear from you.

This marks just the beginning of our longer term campaign focused on reducing the harm caused by sports gambling. Stay tuned for further updates, including how you can get involved. If this is an issue you’re particularly interested in then let us know.

What you have been telling us

The normalisation of gambling in Australia impacts the whole community. Through our survey we’ve heard from concerned parents, lawyers, gambling and financial counsellors and people harmed by gambling distraught that companies are grooming the next generation.

We’ve heard from grandparents who are now reluctant to take their grandchildren to games.

Many who are fed up with sports gambling advertising eroding their love of watching sport. Other who have flat out stopped watching sport with their families to prevent their children from being exposed.

People appalled that so many of our kids now equate sport with gambling.

People who believe sports gambling advertising is more pervasive and damaging that smoking advertising.

People who likened the impact of sports gambling to a “lethal drug that is stopping our economy from progressing”.

Here are a selection of excerpts from some of the responses to our survey received so far:

Anonymous gambling counsellor

I am a gambling help counsellor. The extreme advertising by sports gambling bodies causes many relapses in clients, who are bombarded with this advertising on all channels.

Gambling counsellor Emma

I am a gambling counsellor and see daily the damaging impact it has on my clients. It is exposing and desensitizing them to a potentially destructive past time/addiction. Advertising should be banned!!

Anonymous impacted sports gambler

As a young adult, I began to regularly use online betting apps to bet on a range of sports. I would invest a large amount of my very small pay each fortnight into the app and spend the rest of the fortnight chasing my losses. The occasional big win on a complicated multi-bet made me feel great and I'd always tell myself to cash it out into my bank account. I almost never did this and the money would be gone within a few days. I was fortunate enough that I got out of the habit before it became too serious. I was drawn in by the flashy ads and culture of sports betting in young Australian men and recognise how quickly my situation could've become more toxic and dangerous. Based on my experience I know that the wall of sports gambling advertisement will absolutely attract children, particularly young men, to gambling. I've seen sports gambling ads pop up on my 7 year old brother's tablet in the past and can only imagine the subconscious impact this will have on him as he gets older. I believe that there needs to be significantly stronger regulations for gambling advertisement on electronic devices that are easily accessible by young people. My concern is that all children today watching AFL on TV, attending a sporting match or simply reviewing the fixture online will be exposed to gambling company logos and potentially increase their propensity to gamble. Furthermore, I am concerned that gambling and sport are increasingly becoming intertwined and normalized through this process. Gambling is not part of sport and should not be a part of 'the game'. There should be no gambling advertising in sport, at sporting matches, televised 'odds' during games and no gambling advertising on AFL site/ footy fixture. Gambling is a harmful product and it is disgusting that despite the research on children's exposure to gambling, the AFL and other sporting clubs continue to accept funds from gambling companies. I am now reluctant to allow my child to view the footy fixture online due to the 'Bet Easy' icon next to the game. I also feel annoyed and dismayed at the AFL that they have allowed a gambling company to infiltrate the game.

Matt from Victoria writes:

I started gambling when I was 16. It spiralled to addiction. Sports betting is insidious. I’m associated at sporting clubs and the amount of young men who will have problems with gambling in years to come is huge. Sports gambling companies have normalised gambling. I find it disgusting.

MH from Victoria:

I am aware of more and more young people becoming trapped in the cycle of sports gambling. It's devastating to see and here that young lives are being ruined because of it. Children are even being exposed to it therefore grooming a new generation of sports gamblers. From what l have seen and heard children are illegally betting on their parents’ credit cards and running up massive debts. I have seen my brothers waste their savings away week after week with sports betting, l don't want to see it happen to anyone else.

Joanne from Victoria writes:

My husband and I were both concerned when our then-7 year old constructed his own football oval and spent most of his time on designing betting ads around its perimeter. We had completely overlooked that our son would be absorbing this advertising from watching the game.  I’m concerned all the advertising normalises gambling so that it appears to be part of a well-rounded, sporty lifestyle.

Ian Brett from Victoria:

I know how gambling can affect a young person’s life and sports gambling is targeting children. All sports gambling advertising should be banned and children should be allowed to play and enjoy sports. As someone who was consumed by gambling from the age of 9 until a few years ago it would make me happy to know that by advocating for change all my losses from gambling were not a complete waste of time.

Jennifer from Victoria writes:

As a lawyer of 40 years I am very concerned the number of people addicted to gambling and have cases where sports gambling addiction has lead to criminal activity including theft and drug trafficking as well as numerous marriage and relationship breakdowns. In addition, of course, to bankruptcies and other financial disasters. I was appalled to see 3 ads in the one train compartment which implied you were a loser if not gambling on sports odds.... trains where school kids spend many hours per week. Children have enough issues without being bombarded by these advertisements. Furthermore I have stopped watching sport on TV because of the ads.

O from Adelaide writes:

I manage 60+ staff and gambling addiction has been increasingly distracting to some staff and caused a few to have large losses, rolling onto other issues and ultimately to unemployment and marriage break ups. Sport isn't sport anymore. Kids should be able to watch a game and cheer on their teams without being influenced to pick odds or place bets! Sports gambling advertising and particular the live betting should be banned.

The next Parliament will be in a position to tackle this scourge and whoever forms Government after Saturday’s election should seriously consider the tobacco solution - a complete ban on gambling advertising.

2. Pokies campaigner Meg Webb win balance of power in Tassie upper house

As we mentioned in the February edition of Gambling News, Meg Webb did more than anyone to get the Labor Party over the line with the ground breaking policy to remove all pokies from Tasmanian pubs and clubs.

The gambling industry then ruthlessly spent an estimated $5 million fighting the proposal during last year’s Tasmanian election and effectively took over the Liberal Party in what was a shameful example of corporate influencing.

The community was clearly unimpressed because at the very next voting opportunity, they have duly elected Meg Webb to the Tasmanian upper house in the seat of Nelson, where she will share in the balance of power. (See the local ABC online coverage, plus this piece in The Advocate. Also, check out the full distribution of preferences.)

Alliance director and spokesman Tim Costello proudly launched Meg’s campaign in Hobart back in February and said he was thrilled to see Meg win.

“The gambling reform movement relies on creative and honourable people like Meg to deliver change and Tasmania will be well served having an independent in the upper house with such a pedigree in campaigning for change,” Tim said. “This is a real shot in the arm for Tasmanian pokies reform.”

Interestingly, the pokies industry, primarily though the billionaire Farrell family and their Federal Hotels Group, was seen to be supporting independent candidate Blair Brownless, the brother of former Geelong footballer Billy Brownless. However, his candidacy bombed as he finished 6th out of 10 on primary votes.

The majority of the candidates in Nelson expressed strong support for meaningful pokies reform and after the scandals of the last Tasmanian election, the people of Hobart have clearly spoken.

Nelson overlaps much of Andrew Wilkie’s renamed seat of Clark and the feisty Federal independent, also a ferocious campaigner against the gambling industry, is expected to be comfortably returned on Saturday.

The Tasmanian Liberal Government is set to introduce legislation later this year moving from the Farrell family monopoly over pokies to a venue-based model preferred by the hotels lobby.

It will be hotly contested legislation and its passage through the upper house will be a lot more interesting to watch after this week’s election of Meg Webb into a balance of power position in the upper house.

3. City of Darebin takes Darebin RSL to the Victorian Supreme Court

City of Darebin has come out swinging against the Darebin RSL and this week voted to challenge a VCAT decision to expand its pokies operation in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Jewel Topsfield from The Age had the story today - which included a picture of Stuart McDonald on page 8 of the print edition.

Stuart is an Alliance Champion for Change who was one of the objectors to the Darebin RSL proposal and also ran for the board of the Western Bulldogs in 2018, contributing to the club’s commitment to divest its two pokies venues.

City of Darebin has the strongest gambling policy of any Australian council and issued this powerful statement on Tuesday about the Supreme Court appeal.

The Victorian RSL is the second biggest Victorian pokies operator after Woolworths and has been the state’s most aggressive applicant for new machines over the past two years.

However, these expansion plans have been meeting strong resistance. They’ve wasted considerable veteran funds in the process and destroyed a lot of community and council goodwill, even triggering a pokies revolt from younger veterans.

Here is the roll-call of what they’ve tried to do:

Glenroy RSL: applied in 2015 to expand its poker machines numbers by 10 to 50 and after various skirmishes at council, the VCGLR, VCAT and in the Supreme Court, the application was finally rejected by VCAT in April 2019 and the 10 additional machines have now been removed. City of Moreland suffered $64.17 million in pokies losses in 2017-18, including $4.78 million on the 50 machines at the Glenroy RSL.

Dandenong RSL: Applied for an additional 11 machines in 2018 and this was rejected by both council and the VCGLR (see decision). City of Greater Dandenong suffered $121.4 million in losses on the pokies in 2017-18, with $7.65 million of this coming on the existing 63 machines at the Dandenong RSL.

Geelong RSL: council rejected an application for 30 new machines and contested it at the VCGLR which approved the machines in December 2018. City of Greater Geelong suffered record pokies losses of $117.5 million in 2017-18, and the Geelong RSL contributed $3.37 million from its existing 43 pokies, which is now set to rise.

Altona RSL: council rejected the application for an extra  22 pokies in 2018 & the application was refused by the VCGLR. City of Hobson Bay suffered $47.4 million in pokies losses in 2017-18, with $3.59 million of this coming from the existing 58 pokies at the Altona RSL.

Darebin RSL: applied for an additional 15 pokies in 2017-18. A planning permit for the machines was rejected by council, but a licence to operate them was approved by the VCGLR. Both cases were appealed to VCAT which made this decision after a 5 day hearing The extra machines were approved but not the extended trading hours until 2am. Council has now voted to appeal this at the Victorian Supreme Court. Darebin residents lost $82.1 million on the pokies in 2017-18 and $4.7 million of this came from the existing 65 pokies at the Darebin RSL.

With younger veterans pressuring the Victorian RSL to get out of the pokies business, surely the board will take stock and settle with City of Darebin rather than boxing on in the Victorian Supreme Court.

After all, the Glenroy RSL were beaten by the City of Moreland in the Supreme Court last year and then lost the subsequent VCAT dispute and have just recently actually removed 10 of their 50 pokies, as was outlined in this Alliance media release at the time.

4. How Aristocrat and Tabcorp exploit veterans for super profits

How much is the gambling industry making out of Australia’s supposedly not-for-profit pokies clubs? Enormous sums if you look at the profit results released by the likes of pokies manufacturer Aristocrat and Tabcorp.

Indeed, some of the younger veterans who have been looking at the numbers reckon that RSLs across Australia are being openly gouged, reducing the amount of money available to spend on veteran welfare.

The Alliance has gone back and looked at the profits reported by Aristocrat Leisure’s Australia and New Zealand pokies division. You can see a table attached to this tweet but the change over the past 5 years is just extraordinary.

In 2013, the Aristocrat pokies division generated just $192 million in sales and segment profit of $77 million. Fast forward to 2018 and sales had rocketed to $455 million with segment profit of $207 million, representing a record profit margin of 45.2%.

In any other industry that would be called gouging. No wonder Aristocrat has the spare cash to be chief sponsor at the upcoming Clubs ACT conference in June. They splash cash creating a gravy train for club directors and staff, then brazenly gouge them knowing the disengaged members won’t know any better. Let’s hope Aristocrat’s Australian head of sales, Brad Robertson, gets some tough questions about gouging when he presents for 15 minutes to the Clubs ACT conference on June 22.

It’s a similar story with Tabcorp which has RSL branded venues as their biggest customers for their “Tabcorp Gaming Services” division which has recently been re-branded Max Gaming. (Tabcorp is also sponsoring the Clubs ACT conference and two of their executive have been given a 20 minute slot at the beginning of Friday’s proceedings.)

Tabcorp only launched TGS in 2013 after it was booted out as the duopolist Victorian pokies operator, along with Tattersalls.

It quickly signed up the Victorian RSL as a key client and is now extracting about $30 million a year from the RSL based on charging a fee of $28 per machine per day. No wonder almost 20 RSL pokie dens in Victoria have gone broke and had their buildings sold off over the past decade. Here are links to some media coverage of this happening:

Heidelberg RSL sent broke by its pokies
The Age, 4 February, 2013

Eltham RSL to be sold as head office slammed for excessive profit focus
The Age, 19 April, 2010

Beaumaris RSL killed off by pokie debts pushed by head office
ABC radio’s The World Today, 8 June, 2015

Williamstown RSL sold off to pay back $3m pokies debt
The Age, 8 December, 2016

Fairfield RSL sold to Grocon to pay off pokie debts
Leader Newspapers, 6 May, 2015

There is no such problem at Tabcorp which has been making super profits out of Victorian RSLs and keeps head office sweet with their $500,000 annual sponsorship which helps pay the salaries of the leading brass.

For instance, in 2014-15 Tabcorp Gaming Solutions generated $99.6 million in revenue and a segment profit of $41.6 million, reflecting an excessive profit margin of 41.8%.

Even in 2017-18, after the Tattersalls merger which brought in other operations such as the Max Gaming pokies monitoring division, Tabcorp Gaming Solutions generated $250 million in revenue and $65.6 million of segment profit, at a margin of 26.3%.

Tabcorp is making plenty through its wagering and lotteries business, so surely it cad afford to exit from its sub-scale pokies division which is causing brand damage given the harm caused in the community and the exploitative relationship it has with the Victorian RSL.

However, if it must stay in the pokies servicing business, the least they could do is stop extracting excessive profits out of RSLs, which is struggling to make a decent return on its pokies but are doing enormous harm to the community along the way.

Besides, isn’t it time the RSL returned to its mission of focusing on veteran welfare.

These are interesting times within the RSL branch network. The President of the highly regarded Box Hill sub-branch has just resigned and head office is investigating the circumstances. Apparently he took a stand on a governance issue.

Elsewhere, the Ringwood RSL is struggling with $6.5 million in debt and has announced plans to sell off its site to a developer. Interestingly, Ringwood President David Jamison is being proposed as Victoria’s candidate to be national President of the RSL.

But if his own sub-branch is struggling under the burden of pokies debt, does that make him a suitable national president?

NSW is putting up its President, Captain James Brown, who is Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law and has shown himself to be a breath of fresh air within the RSL.

Another interesting development will be the RSL Victoria state council meeting on July 4. We’re hearing that the board has agreed to put up a series of constitutional amendments proposed by younger veterans seeking governance reform.

Whilst there isn’t a pokies divestment resolution, this does sound like progress.

5. Fox and the Murdochs get into the gambling business

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation last week announced it had bought 5% of global online gambling giant The Stars Group for $US236 million as part of a new joint venture called Fox Bet which is aiming to exploit the US sports gambling market, which was only legalised 12 months ago.

This is a very unhealthy development. See The Stars Group announcement here.

The Stars Group is the Canadian parent company of Beteasy, one of the “Big Four” foreign-owned online gambling companies in Australia along with Sportsbet, Ladbrokes and Bet365. It is now commercially tied to Australia’s biggest media company.

There’s some interesting UK history which is worth understanding to get a sense of what Fox and the Murdochs are contemplating in the US sports gambling market.

Whilst News Corp newspapers have long printed form guides in partnership with the likes of Tabcorp, the Murdoch family’s more overt connection to the UK gambling industry pre-dated this with the creation of Sky Bet in 2002 which was a rebrand of three smaller companies described by Wikipedia as follows:

Sky Bet's origins lie in BSkyB's acquisition of Sports Internet Group in July 2000 which included the small telephone and online sports betting based company Surrey Sports alongside two other companies; Planet Football and Opta Index. Surrey Sports was rebranded in July 2002 to create Sky Bet.

We then had a lot of lobbying around the UK gambling laws and once the deregulation agenda was embraced (something UK Labour now deeply regrets) by the Blair Government in 2006, BSkyB bought 365 Media Group in December 2006 which owned the online gambling companies Totalbet and UKbetting.

From this point on, in what was an unhealthy fusion of media and gambling commerciality,  BSkyB aggressively used its broadcasting rights for the British Premier League to grow Sky Bet into one of Britain’s biggest online gambling companies.

Fast forward to 2015 and BSkyB sold 80% of SkyBet to private equity firm CVC for 600 million pounds with additional payments based on profits.

The whole of the Sky Bet business was then sold to Canada’s The Stars Group in April 2018 for a whopping $US4.7 billion. See the 20 page power point from TSG explaining the deal to investors.

BSkyB pocketed $US940 million from this sale of its remaining 20% so the total sale proceeds from the two tranches for the then Murdoch-controlled BSkyB came to about $2.5 billion. There’s never been a global media company move so profitably into the gambling industry like this before.

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch fronted an investor day in New York for Fox Corp last week where they spruiked the $US236 million investment in The Stars Group as part of this 150 page Fox Corp power point presentation.

It is a similar story in Australia where News Corp has a tight relationship with Tabcorp and owns business such as punters.com.au and odd.com.au.

It also recently bought a business called Racenet as it tries to dominate editorial coverage of the racing industry, which underpins the economics of the big online gambling companies given that Australians are still losing about $3 billion a year on wagering and just over $1 billion a year on sports gambling.

See what the ACCC said when approving News Corp’s Racenet buy.

The Alliance has noticed that News Corp outlets in Australia tend to play down the harm caused by the gambling industry relative to other media companies. It was a similar story in the UK where the successful campaign to slash the maximum bet on FOBTs was led by the likes of The Guardian and The Daily Mail.

If a Labor Government is elected on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if they are prepared to take on News Corp, including by further restricting gambling advertising on its Foxtel pay-television platform.

The Coalition Government gave Foxtel a controversial $30 million hand-out when the original restrictions on gambling advertising were introduced, but it is still not clear what taxpayers received in return.

6. NSW update: more gambling fines, Pointsbet Stadium and poor pokies data

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation has an excellent program called “Love the game, not the odds” which has seen direct sponsorship of AFL clubs significantly curtail the level or sponsorship by sports gambling companies. Indeed, not a single Victorian-based AFL club has any gambling branding on their playing strip this season.

It’s a shame a similar program doesn’t run in pokies-dominated NSW where gambling sponsorship is increasingly out of control.

For instance, the Prime Minister’s own NRL team, the Cronulla Sharks, has just agreed to change the name of its home ground to “Pointsbet Stadium” in what is reportedly a 4 year deal worth $1.6 million. The contrast with Geelong Football Club voluntarily removing all stadium gambling advertising is stark indeed.

The Pointsbet deal comes hot on the heels of the Brisbane Lions doing a jumper sponsorship deal with notorious online bookmaker neds, now a subsidiary of Ladbrokes. (See this Alliance press release about that awful arrangement.)

Meanwhile, as Nigel Gladstone reported in Fairfax’s Sun Herald on Sunday, the NSW Government is busily dishing out numerous small fines for gambling companies breaching their new laws banning inducements to bet.

Whilst this is better than nothing, the idea that NRL teams such as The Sharks and the Manly Sea Eagles, which renamed its Brookvale home ground to Lottoland, is frankly ridiculous given the exposure kids will have to these dangerous gambling brands.

Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath if you are looking for up to date data on poker machines losses in NSW. Last March, the government in the context of legislative reforms, announced they would provide 6 monthly data sets free of charge on the Liquor and Gaming website.

These data sets are the total losses and tax takes for, separately, clubs and hotels, for 6 month periods, by local government area - NSW won’t publish venue-level data like Victoria.

Also promised, but never delivered, is the report on numbers of poker machines per venue. All these reports for the second half of 2018 are now overdue, but Liquor and Gaming can’t provide a deadline (they missed both their self-imposed deadlines last year).

As an additional frustration, the redesigned website, launched late in 2018, removes the single static noticeboard of applications for more poker machines. Instead, users need to already know that an application has been lodged because they need to search by suburb or local government area. And the historical data is even harder to find, in case anyone might want to check if a proponent has in fact handed over the money they promised in exchange for more licences.

The Alliance is certainly hoping that a change to the Better Regulation and Innovation Ministry in July will lead to better data and more transparency from a clearly over-worked and under-staffed department.

When you’ve been captured by the gambling industry, the temptation for government is to shun transparency and try and hide the enormous damage being caused. Sadly, this is where things remain in NSW.

By way of comparison, look at all the detailed pokies data which City of Greater Dandenong in Victoria has been able to put together based on the more transparent data friendly Victorian system.

7. SA gambling prevalence study highlights dangers of loyalty schemes

Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers so it is important that regular studies are conducted looking at the prevalence of gambling in the community.

The South Australian government this week released their first gambling prevalence study in 6 years (see some local media) and it showed overall rates of gambling in the community had dropped from 69% in 2012 to 65% in 2018.

However, unsurprisingly, the level of online gambling has almost tripled from 5% in 2012 to 13% in 2018. The study also found that gambling transactions are far more frequent in the online environment (see page 9 of executive summary).  Moreover, those who gambled via the internet were between two and three times as likely to fall into the problem gambling or being at risk of problem categories (9.6% of them) than gamblers who did not use the internet to gamble.

The SA study continued a new measure first pioneered with some Victorian research which measured the “short harm scale” and it found 20% of all those in Greater Adelaide who gambled in the last 12 months experienced some form of harm. See table 82 on page 149 of the study.

The danger of loyalty schemes was another interesting revelation in the South Australian study.

When you look at who is enrolled in loyalty schemes, the study revealed that 25% of scheme members are likely to be at marginal risk of harm and 41% are likely to be in the category of “problem gamblers”, although we don’t like the language which blames the gambler, rather than the industry.

This compares with just 12% of gamblers as a whole who are enrolled in loyalty schemes. (See this fact sheet.)

As was outlined by the VCGLR in its 5 yearly licence review of Crown Melbourne last year, it is clear the industry should be far more pro-actively using loyalty scheme data to intervene to prevent customers from suffering harm.

The South Australian study confirms the industry knows loyalty scheme members are far more likely to be suffering harm and should be doing something about it.

Finally, it is worth noting that the use of pokies continues to fall significantly. In 2005 the figure for participation in EGM gambling in SA was around 30%, in 2012 it had fallen to 26.5 and in 2018 it is recorded as 19%.

That said, the losses are not declining that quickly so there is clearly a smaller number of people who are suffering even greater losses, as the machines become increasingly addictive in their design.

8. Still waiting for Victoria to strengthen venue code of conduct

Waiting, waiting, waiting….

As the last two editions of Gambling News have pointed out, we’re still waiting for Victorian Gambling Minister Marlene Kairouz to release the updated venue code of conduct.

City of Yarra is giving the issue a push along having submitted the following motion which will be debated at the Municipal Association of Victoria state council meeting tomorrow (Friday):

THAT the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) call on the State Government to implement an evidenced based public health approach to reduce gambling harm associated with electronic gaming machines through
(a) introducing a stronger Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct to include:
(i) stronger focus on venue and staff responsibility to reduce levels of gambling harm by offering assistance to people displaying signs they are being harmed by gambling, as is the case under laws in New Zealand and Switzerland;
(ii) mandatory breaks and maximum daily limits on gambling time; 
(iv) prohibition on inducements to gamble such as gifts or offering free food and drink (excluding water) and instead encourage gamblers to take a break going to other parts of the venue for food and drink; 
(v) requiring venues to assist research projects approved by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR);
(vi) no service of food or drinks at the machines.
(b) reducing opening hours for pokies venues to include mandatory 2am - 9am shutdown. 
(c) banning losses disguised as wins as recommended by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), noting this feature is already banned in Queensland and Tasmania.
(d) Mandating the display of signage on all electronic gaming machines with a product health and safety warning – ‘stating the machine is designed to keep you playing and programmed for you to lose money’, emulating the approach taken with the tobacco industry.

We flagged this issue in the March edition of Gambling News and several Victorian councils have subsequently engaged with the Minister in a direct and public way calling for a stronger code.

For instance, have a look at the strong motion passed by City of Greater Dandenong at its March 25 council meeting (see the council motions page on our website). And speaking of Greater Dandenong, check out this social statistics section on their website put together by Hayden Brown. The gambling section along is incredibly insightful.

Will the Minister come through with a strengthened code of conduct that protects patrons and holds dodgy venues to account? Watch this space…

That’s all for now. We’ll be back with another edition of Gambling News in June.

Do ya best,
Stephen Mayne
Editor of Gambling News
Feedback to stephen@agr.org.au,  0412 106 241 or DM tweet to @maynereport