newsletter11062017 - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Autumn Newsletter

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  1. Federal Government Sports Betting Announcement
  2. Geelong Football Club is getting out of poker machines
  3. Highlands Hotel Craigieburn poker machines decision
  4. Support for local fights against poker machine applications
  5. ACT Clubs caught out on community contributions
  6. Council actions on clubs tax break
  7. Alliance Staffing News: Stephen Mayne and Hillary Montague!
  8. Champions for Change
  9. More Councils join the Local Government Leadership Group
  10. NSW opportunities
  11. Pokies on trial

1. Federal Government Sports Betting Announcement

The Federal Government has announced its intention to ban sports gambling advertising from 5 minutes before the start of a live broadcast to 5 minutes after it finishes or 8.30pm, whichever comes first. The ban applies to all live TV, radio, and Internet broadcasts. The aim is to implement it by March 2018.

Gambling ads can still be run during G-rated time slots during news, current affairs or sports related programming. The Government has sought the acquiescence of the TV networks to the changes by offering much reduced licence fees and changes to media ownership laws.

The Alliance welcomes the announcement. Like many Australians, we have long been concerned about the normalisation of gambling through its association with sport by an avalanche of TV and radio advertising. We remain concerned, however, that the proposed changes will not prevent gambling advertising during sporting events - many are broadcast live after 8:30 pm, and many teenagers are watching TV at that time. The Alliance is pushing for an end to sports betting advertising during family viewing times.

2,688 supporters signed the petition to Minister Fifield, 1,284 people wrote personal emails to cabinet in the week before the decision and 33 volunteers called Minister Fifield to tell him to stop the gambling ads. A fantastic effort! Thanks to everyone who took part.

During this time we kept Tim Costello busy, with media interviews for papers, radio and TV on the issue, as well as a powerful opinion piece in the Herald Sun.

The Federal Government is also negotiating a number of harm minimisation changes with the States. These include; 

  1. A national self-exclusion register with single point exclusion from all providers,
  2. Voluntary pre-commitment with binding limits,
  3. Prohibition on lines of credit from betting firms, and
  4. Prohibiting links between pay day lenders and gambling firms.

The Alliance supports these measures and will be campaigning to ensure they are improved and delivered.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill also bounced around in Parliament earlier this year. The bill would have (mostly) banned “in-play” betting on mobile devices. The Alliance supports the bill, noting that it should be improved by ensuring in-play bets cannot be placed on devices in gaming venues. Amendments to the improve the bill meant it failed to pass the Senate, but we expect it to come back as additional policies are negotiated with the states. 

2. Geelong Football Club is getting out of poker machines

What a huge win! The Geelong AFL team has announced that it is raising its revenue without relying on gaming or poker machines. The machines have gone from its new home venue, and Geelong is planning to phase out its reliance on poker machines entirely. 

Alliance supporters signed up fans outside the MCG last season with our “Love footy, hate pokies” campaign, and after Geelong made this move, our supporters called their club and the AFL Commission to tell them to wean themselves off pokies like Geelong and North Melbourne who have been poker machine free for some time. It’s never too late to let your club know what you want, so use our online tool to find your club phone number and give them a call.

3. Highlands Hotel Craigieburn poker machines decision - family violence given "marginal" weight

The Alliance was disappointed with the decision by the Victorian gambling regulator - the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation – to approve an extra 20 machines for the Highlands Hotel in Craigieburn. The Hotel already has 60 machines, and last year they took over $8 million from local residents. We were particularly disappointed with the Commission saying it afforded evidence that was given to it about family violence "marginal" weight.

The Alliance has been involved in forums this year at which clear evidence of a link between gambling and family violence has been produced. One ANU study compared postcodes with 75 poker machines per 10,000 people with postcodes with no machines. Suburbs without machines had 20% fewer reported family violence incidents and 30% fewer domestic violence assaults. Other research shows that family violence is three times more likely to occur in families where there is problem gambling than in families in which there are no gambling problems.

The decision undermines the advertising campaign and other work of the Victorian Government seeking to have family violence treated with the greatest seriousness. On a more positive note, the City of Hume, which has resolved to join the Alliance, came out strongly against this decision, and the decision's shortcomings were reported by Richard Willingham in The Age, and by ABC radio. Supporters sent a wave of emails to the Minister for Prevention of family violence to demand they act consistently and give full consideration of family violence when faced with poker machine applications.  

4. Support for local fights against poker machine applications

The Alliance has been working with local residents and councils opposing new poker machine applications, particularly across Victoria. We’re supporting locals in Officer, Wangaratta, Whittlesea, Bendigo, Hume, Noble Park and Berwick.

Although the approval process is still stacked against the community, we are starting to see signs that the VCGLR is giving community opposition more weight, and imposing more conditions on applications.

5. ACT Clubs caught out on community contributions

Research by Monash University researcher Dr Charles Livingstone has caught out Canberra gambling clubs claiming payments to coaches, elite sports players, physiotherapy and massage as "community contributions" which "justify" them getting a much lower tax rate than the national average.

In 2014 ACT clubs made $167 million from poker machines and gave $11.9 million - 6.4% - in community contributions. But if elite and professional sport was deducted, the community contributions fell to 4.6%. And if in-kind contributions were excluded, the figure fell to just 2.8%!

Gambling harm in Canberra received publicity recently when it emerged that a Canberra professor had lost $230,000 in Canberra Raiders poker machines, with allegations that staff were aware this was happening and took no action.

ACT Clubs paid 19.9 per cent tax in 2014-15, compared with a national average of 29.9%. The ACT Government should investigate the apparent rorting of the scheme, and it should move to lift the ACT tax rate to the national average and spend the extra revenue on projects and programs of genuine community benefit. Kelvin Thomson did a great interview on ABC radio – listen here.

6. Council actions on clubs tax break

A number of the Alliance's Leadership Councils are writing to the Victorian Government to urge it to end the 8.33% tax break that Victorian Gambling Clubs get for spending money on "community benefit". As in the ACT, this tax break is poorly monitored and does not represent value for money. In some cases, clubs are being set up in pubs with the sole purpose of benefiting from the tax break. Things like providing transport to club venues are not so much "community benefit" as a marketing exercise intended to drive traffic into the club and increase poker machine use. Spending on internal club operations and support for club-affiliated activities represent an abuse of the intention of "community benefit".

The Bendigo Advertiser reported at the end of March that a Bendigo club had purchased a hotel opposite a Catholic Primary School and was applying to put poker machines in there. By happy co-incidence, the Club had started making donations to the Primary School. Whether or not you think the donations were intended to buy the school's silence over its poker machine application, the Club shouldn't get a tax break for such donations. The government should be collecting the tax, funding Primary Schools appropriately, and allowing them to make decisions about whether or not poker machines opposite the school are a good idea free from any suggestion of improper influence.

Clubs are an important part of our culture, but poker machines are not. In Victoria, only 6 cents in every dollar lost on poker machines is returned to the wider community as gifts, donations, sponsorships or volunteer expenses. If the tax break were to be abolished the Victorian Government could spend the extra revenue on the provision of alternative entertainment – active recreation, passive recreation, and cultural infrastructure - which would provide less risky entertainment options for residents than poker machines.

7. Alliance Staffing News:
Welcome Stephen Mayne and Hillary Montague!

The Alliance is building its capacity to campaign with the recent appointments of well-known anti-gambling campaigner Stephen Mayne as our Media and Communications Advisor, and a new Campaign Assistant, Hillary Montague. Stephen and Hillary will be supporting our Executive Officer Tony Mohr and our Campaign Organiser Kelvin Thomson. 

Stephen Mayne has been a councillor on Manningham and Melbourne City Councils, founded the online news outlets Crikey and the Mayne Report, and has long been a well-informed and outspoken advocate for reform of the pokies industry. We look forward to Stephen increasing our media impact and working with our leadership group of councils when he starts on 12th June.

Hillary Montague comes with experience working for Amnesty International, Oaktree and Haka in Indonesia. She’s built strong volunteer and supporter teams to deliver political impact and is bringing that experience to support and grow our grassroots supporter base. If you’re interested in learning more drop her a line at hillary@agr.org.au   

8. Champions for Change

A key objective of the Alliance is to empower people who have been hurt by gambling to campaign for gambling reform. Their authentic voice is of immense value to our cause. The Champions For Change program has been initiated by members of the Alliance for Gambling Reform Board with a lived experience of gambling harm, who believe that a combination of lived experience, knowledge and skills can create a very powerful and credible force for change to prevent gambling harm.

Such a program would not be possible without the foundations laid by organisations such as the Gambling Impact Society NSW, ReSPIN gambling awareness speakers bureau, Three Sides of a Coin, and Dare to Connect. These groups have developed expertise in the design and delivery of programs that empower people with lived experience to share their story and support their peers.

The Champions for Change program seeks to empower people with experience of gambling harm, who want to participate in reform advocacy and provide opportunities to work with the Alliance in a number of ways that is meaningful to them. Champions will be trained in campaign actions such as public engagement, speaking at public events, community group engagement, and meeting with elected representatives. This exciting program will be open to applications soon, so stay tuned!  

9. More Councils join the Local Government Leadership Group

We are very pleased to welcome a number of new Councils who have indicated they will be joining the Alliance in 2017-2018. In particular, the Councils of Wyndham, Hume and Mornington Peninsula have announced that they will be coming on board, while others have advised us that they have set aside money in their Draft 2017-2018 Budgets.

We are excited at the prospect of working closely with new partners. We are equally keen to have the ongoing support of those Leadership Councils who supported us in 2016-2017 - Whittlesea, Moreland, Monash, Melbourne and Greater Dandenong. Without their support, it would not have been possible to get gambling reform issues on the radar in the way that we have in the last 12 months or to pursue opportunities to build a bigger and more representative Alliance. We look forward to a strong ongoing relationship with them.

10. NSW opportunities

NSW has around half of the countries poker machines and has long been at the heart of poker machine harm. Right now and over coming months the Alliance is leveraging the NSW government review of the ‘Local Impact Assessment’ process, which on its current trajectory is a shameful example of Clubs NSW ghostwriting NSW Government policy.

We’re also seeing some progress to crack open the vault that is pokies data in NSW. Right now, the scale of poker machine losses is hidden away. After the Alliance raised the lack of transparency with the Greens NSW, Justin Field MLC has now introduced their transparency bill into Parliament, which would see the real cost of poker machines revealed for the first time.

11. Pokies on trial

The court case against Crown Melbourne and Aristocrat has been progressing, with Barrister Ron Merkel joining the legal team, and the case expanded to allege ‘unconscionable conduct’ against both Crown and Aristocrat for intentionally designing the machines to mislead and deceive people.

Get all the latest on the case on our website here, and stay tuned as the case is expected to be heard in September 2017.