Gambling News: October 2018 - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Gambling News: Victorian election, scandal hits NSW, Clubs NSW MOU, Victorian wagering tax victory, Northern Beaches does us proud, AFL pokies update, mobile billboard launched and best of the media.

October 2018

In this latest edition of Gambling News we cover a big week of gambling scandals in NSW ahead of the Clubs NSW annual conference, Victoria’s last minute approval of the point of consumption tax, a terrific policy win on the Northern Beaches, movement in AFL land, the unveiling of our giant mobile billboard in Melbourne and some strong pokies resistance by Victorian councils.

Greens policy triggers pokies debate in Victoria
Scandals hits NSW gambling industry ahead of Clubs NSW conference
At last, Victoria legislates the point of consumption tax
Northern Beaches sets a new standard for NSW gambling policy
AFL update - Bulldogs to exit as Essendon doubles down
Check out our giant Victorian mobile billboard
Victorian councils show Melton how to resist pokies
Best of the gambling media

Pokies debate takes off in Victoria

The Victorian election is just 44 days away and the Victorian Greens yesterday sparked strong community debate after unveiling a policy to completely phase out pokies from pubs and clubs by 2028.

See the full policy package here, along with this video.

The Alliance has long argued that councils should have more say over pokies and under the Greens proposal, it will be up to Victorian councils to decide if they would like to issue any new final 6 year licences once the current 10 year licences expire in August 2022.

Premier Daniel Andrews responded with some familiar industry lines such as that pokies are “a perfectly legitimate form of recreational activity” and that there is only a “small number” of problem gamblers.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy is also sticking by the earlier Bipartisan plan to issue new 20 year pokies licences which run through until 2042 and will trigger an additional $70 billion in pokies losses in Victoria.

The Alliance is looking forward to seeing if the Greens proposal, along with the unprecedented levels of public debate over the Opera House advertising fiasco, triggers any bolder reform proposals from the major parties before Victorians go to the polls on November 24.

The Greens have certainly made the early running, including using the Parliamentary Budget Office to cost the impact of policies such as maximum $1 bets and reduced trading hours. See the full PBO analysis of the policy here.

Scandal hits NSW gambling industry ahead of Clubs NSW conference

As if the Opera House scandal wasn’t enough, SBS broke a big story last week when it reported on this extraordinary regulatory sanction against the Wollongong pokies club, The Steelers, which is chaired by the long-time chairman of Clubs NSW and Clubs Australia, Peter Newell.

Could this be the wildest pokie den in Australia, as suggested by The Daily Mail? We’ve got chapter and verse on this extraordinary story in this media statement.

And on the same day this story broke, long time gambling booster Alan Jones launched his appalling bullying attack on Opera House CEO Louise Herron, demanding that the Everest horse race be promoted on the sails of the iconic building.

Six days later, the gambling industry is chastened by the unprecedented public backlash and we’re today headed into the 4 day Clubs NSW annual conference with the racing industry and the Government scarred by a full blown PR disaster after 311,000 people signed a petition objecting to the bullying and misuse of the Opera House sails.

If the NSW Government was thinking about signing another one of those notorious MOUs with Clubs NSW at this week’s conference, surely these scandals will give them pause for thought.

Thanks to everyone who signed our petition yesterday urging NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian not to sign another MOU. (Check out the awful 2010 and 2014 versions here.)

Interestingly, Alan Jones has a commercial agreement with Clubs NSW through 2GB and is giving a 75 minute keynote address to the Clubs NSW flock on Sunday morning, presumably with the expectation that an MOU will have been signed.

His 2GB colleague Ben Fordham also features in the program, along with foreign bookies lobbyist and former Labor senator Stephen Conroy.

As Tim Costello wrote in The Guardian last week and investigative journalist Michael West wrote on his website, the NSW Government should not sign any more agreements with Clubs NSW which limit the future reform options in the jurisdiction with the world’s worst levels of gambling harm and losses.

The poorly regulated NSW gambling industry appears out of control and if the Steelers, chaired by the Clubs NSW chairman, is any indication of what is going on, industry practices and culture need massive reform, not another MOU which effectively promises to do nothing?

Read the full Steelers Liquor and Gaming NSW report for yourself as it contains some remarkable detail about enormous illegal cash withdrawals for gamblers plus a culture of free drinks to keep people gambling.

Frankly, the record $100,000 fine seems a touch on the light side given the scale of the allegations. Remember, this is a club whose CEO Scott Miles is currently serving a 4 year jail term after stealing more than $1 million….to feed his gambling addiction.

We’ve extracted some of the more remarkable paragraphs from the report in our media statement, plus provided plenty of links documents which strongly make the case as to why Peter Newell should be resigning from all his lofty positions in the industry, not presiding over a 4 days Clubs NSW conference in Sydney.

The Clubs NSW AGM is being held at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, just as attention will be turning to the Everest race at 4.15pm.

We’re hoping the ruthless lobbying group will emerge with a new more reform oriented chairman this weekend, perhaps even a female leader, something ClubsNSW has never tried before.

And rather than standing over governments negotiating deals to block reform, any new leader of ClubsNSW should acknowledge gambling is out of control in NSW and accept the need for reform.

As an example, check out these statements yesterday made by the global CEO of GVC, the giant multinational which owns Ladbrokes, calling for major advertising restrictions in the UK.

At last, Victoria legislates the point of consumption tax

It was looking wobbly for a few days, but in the end the Victorian Parliament came through and legislated for the new 8% point of consumption tax on foreign bookmakers, starting on January 1, 2019.

Check out our media statement commending the outcome, along with this story in The Age after the legislation had passed.

A 15% Queensland point of consumption tax started on October 1, amidst some lively media debate, so we are finally starting to see the enormous profits pocketed by foreign-owned gambling giants like Sportsbet, Ladbrokes and Beteasy being more appropriately taxed.

The long overdue national gambling statistics for 2016-17 were finally released last week and they showed that losses on sports betting grew another 15% to $1.062 billion whilst losses gambling on racing were up 7% to $3.31 billion.

These two categories are the fast growing segments of Australia’s enormous gambling industry so it is vital to get the circa $200 million a year national point of consumption tax up and running to reduce their profits and drive down the record levels of advertising that media consumers are suffering.

The POCT should be operational everywhere by June 30, 2019, with the bizarre exception of gambling captured Tasmania and the Northern Territory which caused the problem in the first place by licencing all these foreign operators with only a tiny tax regime in place.

The other interesting element of the POCT debate is what happens to the money raised.

The Victorian Government has imposed the lowest rate and also adopted a policy of channelling much of the revenue back to the racing industry, as was reported in The Herald Sun yesterday.

Frankly, this racing prize money boost was a strangely timed announcement yesterday from the Victorian Government in the middle of the inaugural Gambling Harm Awareness week.

Have our politicians haven’t learnt from the Opera House saga?

Northern Beaches blazes the trail in NSW

Nearly a year after the first motion was passed by Northern Beaches Council, we reached the pointy end of the business with a Gambling and Poker Machine Harm Management Policy and Plan which came before councillors on Tuesday, September 28.

And we were thrilled when it got over the line 8 votes to 6, despite a ferocious campaign by the local clubs and pubs and their powerful peak bodies.

The Sydney Morning Herald summed up the situation well with this preview piece by Nick O’Malley on the morning of the meeting and then this Jenny Noyes piece after the policy passed. There was also this comprehensive wrap in The Manly Daily.

Our media statement celebrated what is only the second gambling harm policy from a NSW council and the strongest move we’ve seen so far north of the Murray.

Well done to all concerned, particularly the 8 councillors who backed the policy (see full voting details in our media statement), led by everyone’s favourite NSW Liberal, Pat Daley, plus Greens councillor Natalie Warren. A special mention also to Joy Van Duinen, who bravely addressed the meeting and spoke about the tragic loss of her son Gary, who was preyed upon by the enormous Dee Why RSL pokies den and eventually took his own life.

Clubs NSW is predictably showing little sympathy and playing aggressive politics, as can be seen in this cosy clubs interview with Alan Jones bagging councils for getting involved in gambling policy, which it claims is a state and federal government issue.

This is rubbish at many levels, of course, particularly given the hundreds of NSW pokies venues which sit on council land plus the obligations councils have to develop public health plans.

With Australians losing $24 billion a year to gambling, the industry needs to be treated from a health perspective, just like tobacco, where Australia now has the world’s lowest smoking rate despite cigarette sales being at record levels globally.

Councils are not conflicted by gambling revenue like the states and are often less politically captured by the major parties. For instance, there are no Labor councillors at Northern Beaches and whilst 4 of the 5 Liberals opposed the policy, the majority independent council eventually came through with the goods. Well done to all concerned and check out these minutes of the momentous meeting.

AFL update - Bulldogs getting out as Bombers double down

We were all thrilled to read this quote from Western Bulldogs President Peter Gordon in the Herald Sun last week:

“We are moving to sell our remaining gaming assets and using those asset sales as part of the capital commitment to the (Whitten Oval) redevelopment.”

The Bulldogs own two pokies venues - Club Leeds in Maribyrnong and the Peninsula Club in Mornington Peninsula - which together extracted $6.1 million from gamblers in 2017-18.

It is not clear what form the exit will take but once confirmed, this will tip the balance in the AFL to having a majority of clubs (10 out of 18) either out of pokies or committed to exiting.

Incidentally, Peter Gordon appeared on an excellent Gambling Harm Awareness Week panel at City of Brimbank on Monday night, moderated by Sally Warhaft. He really got stuck into Hawthorn and Essendon for staying heavily in the harmful pokies business despite being two of the richest Victorian clubs.

Staying with the AFL,  we do have a problem child in Essendon which is ploughing ahead with a proposed new 29 year pokies lease with City of Melton in Melbourne’s western suburbs for its Melton Country Club venue.

The local paper in Melton splashed with the story last week and submissions are open until October 24, although the statutory advertisement points out they can only be snail mailed to the CEO.

We’ve been campaigning hard to both the councillors and the Bombers and will keep pushing to stop the new lease, which is scheduled to start on December 1, assuming it gets supported at the November 12 council meeting.

The media pressure has been mounting on Essendon with The Age’s Greg Baum producing this excellent column last Saturday, backed up by this strong Herald Sun piece on Monday about the AFL pokies ladder of shame. Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner can’t be enjoying all this criticism when he is known to be uncomfortable remaining in the predatory pokies business.

Victorian councils show how to fight the pokies

Melton aside, Victorian councils have been recently displaying excellent resistance to the spread of addictive pokies on a number of fronts.

City of Greater Dandenong chalked up its second victory at the VCGLR in 18 months after an application from the Dandenong RSL for an additional 11 machines was refused. See how The Dandenong Star Journal reported the victory.

Similarly, the Wyndham councillors voted 5-3 to refuse an application for 10 more poker machines at the Werribee Football Club - a venue which already has 75 machines which drained $11.5 million from the community last year. Start up media outlet Point Cook TV covered the story well and you can watch the video of the council debate starting 50 minutes into this recording on Youtube.

City of Greater Geelong is also taking on the Geelong RSL which is applying for an extra 30 machines. As the Geelong Advertiser reported, councillors voted 6-2 in favour of opposing the application at the VCGLR.

It was a similar story in Ballarat last week as the Ballarat Golf Club attempts to snaffle the last 6 entitlements under its council cap, but will be facing written opposition from council at the VCGLR after a unanimous decision.

And then there was the unanimous vote at City of Hobsons Bay on Tuesday night to oppose an application for more 32 pokies at the Altona RSL.

Cr Peter Hemphill declared that “the tide is turning with the RSLs” as he called for the head office players at ANZAC House to start taking a strong position to reduce gambling harm in the community.

If you want to be inspired by councillor speeches against new pokies applications, just listen to these 6 Hobson Bay councillors in action on the podcast of the October 9 council meeting running from 44-57 minutes.

Mobile billboard launched ahead of Victorian election

The Victorian election is just 44 days away and The Alliance has been rolling out a mobile billboard to hammer home the message that $3.2 billion a year in annual pokies losses (including $450 million at Crown) is too much and councils are united to drive reform.

The presence of the billboard circling Parliament certainly helped as the Labor Government made a late decision to prioritise passing the foreign bookies tax through the upper house on the final sitting day of the term.

Since then, we’ve been on a road trip to 18 councils, as you see in this photo with Cr Virginia Tachos from the local paper in Brimbank, plus this picture of Greater Dandenong mayor Youhorn Chea along with Cr Matthew Kirwan in one of their local papers.

The billboard was launched at the most recent Local Government Working Group on Gambling meeting at the VLGA and is available to visit councils on request.

We were very disappointed to discover that Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz is attending a gaming industry conference in Brimbank (see coverage in The Guardian) on October 16 and the billboard may well make an appearance that day.

So far, it has also visited the electorate offices of a few prominent politicians, including Victoria’s Premier, Treasurer and Gaming Minister, along with some of the pokies venues which record our biggest losses. Check out our facebook page for more photos of the billboard's travels.

Best of the media

There has been plenty of lively material to add to our web page linking to interesting media on gambling issues from around the world. Here are a few of the items we recommend you sample.

Neil Mitchell interviews Greens leader Samantha Ratnam

3AW, 10 October, 2018

John Stanley interview Charles Livingstone about NSW gambling

2GB, 10 October, 2018

Responsible Gambling Week shown to be a joke in NSW

SMH, 10 October, 2018

Victorian Greens moves to phase out pokies over 10 years

Guardian Australia, 10 October, 2018

Brisbane casino developer should stop making political donations

The Australian (pay), 9 October, 2018

How the gambling industry pressured NSW govt over inducements

ABC online, 9 October, 2018

Gladys vs Alan Jones and Australia's most sackable chairman, 9 October, 2018

Tim Costello: Opera house stoush shows NSW gambling industry capture

Guardian Australia, 7 October, 2018

Washington Post launches into corrupting sports gambling

Washington Post, 5 October, 2018

Greg Baum on the gambling gift horses still running wild

The Age, 5 October, 2018

Massive blow for Steelers and NSW pokies industry

Casino Guardian, 5 October, 2018

Record fine for pokies club that gave out free drinks and illegal credit

SBS, 5 October, 2018

Alan Jones slammed for bullying on behalf of the racing industry

Daily Mail Australia, 5 October, 2018

Steelers hit with record $100,000 fine

The Age/SMH, 5 October, 2018

Peter Newell refused to resign after Steelers scandal

ABC Illawarra, 5 October, 2018

Queenslanders lose a record $227m in August alone

Courier Mail, 4 October, 2018

Charles Livingstone interview on 4BC about soaring Queensland losses

4BC, 4 October, 2018

Western Bulldogs pledge to quit remaining pokies assets

Herald Sun, 3 October, 2018

Victorian pokies losses hit record as Minister urged to quit clubs event

Guardian Australia, 2 October, 2018

Essendon urged to give up Melton pokies push

Melton Star Weekly, 2 October, 2018

Point of consumption tax debate rages in Queensland

North Queensland Register, 2 October, 2018

UK regulator charges ahead with new consumer protection rules

Calvin Ayre, 1 October, 2018

Brimbank's pokies plea for reform as Alliance billboard visits council

Star Weekly, 1 October, 2018

Lord Chadlington: Betting sponsorship fans gambling addiction

Financial Times, 24 September, 2018

WA govt releases breakdown of Crown Perth gambling losses

The West Australian, 24 September, 2018

The dangers of F1 diving into the gambling sewer

Macquarie Radio, 22 September, 2018

Victoria passes point of consumption tax

The Age, 21 September, 2018

Skipping confession: Catholic Archbishop affirms pokies connections, 20 September, 2018

UK Labour would ban using credit cards to gamble

The Guardian, 19 September, 2018

Debate re-emerges about ban on in-play betting

The Age, 18 September, 2018

Fibros vs Silvertails: picking the pokies premiership, 17 September, 2018

Liberals turn to pokies king Roger Corbett to manage Abbott exit

Crikey, 12 September, 2018

Infographic: inside the NSW pokies clubs bonanza, 11 September, 2018

Pokies and the rise of the machines, 10 September, 2018

Pokies pusher Roger Corbett hears the call in Warringah

The AFR (pay), 12 September, 2018


That’s all for now. We’ll be back with another Gambling News update later this month.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to become a financial supporter of The Alliance as we strive to reduce world record levels of gambling harm in Australia, click here.

Until next time.

Do ya best,
Stephen Mayne
Editor of Gambling News
Feedback to [email protected],  0412 106 241 or DM tweet to @maynereport