Spring Newsletter - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Spring newsletter

Spring Gambling Wrap

Dear Supporters, welcome to this Spring update from The Alliance for Gambling Reform.

There is plenty going with the pokies trial of the century starting in Melbourne next Monday, lots of movement from the AFL, more encouraging local wins and some remarkable but disturbing insights into the world of pokies pubs in Sydney.

Click for all that and more in this lively update.

  1. Pokies on trial for three weeks from next Monday
  2. AFL pokies campaign bearing fruit
  3. Local battles update – Bendigo, Woolies, Zagames
  4. Lucrative Sydney pokies pubs
  5. Gambling Impact Society seminar
  6. Longer hours for libraries, shorter hours for pokies venues

1. Pokies on trial for three weeks from next Monday

Poker machines are going on trial next week thanks to the fearless Shonica Guy and her pro bono lawyers Maurice Blackburn, a trail-blazing law firm when it comes to social justice court cases in Australia.

There is plenty of background on the case on both The Alliance website, and through Maurice Blackburn.

A press conference and supporter event will be held before the commencement of the trial on September 11 at 9.15am.

A number of supportive Victorian mayors and councillors will be attending, so why not come along as well to the Federal Court at 305 William Street Melbourne from 9.15am until 10.15am when the trial commences?

Each day the court is expected to sit from 10.15am until 1pm and then from 2pm until 4pm.

Shonica and Maurice Blackburn are taking on Aristocrat Leisure, one of the world’s biggest pokies manufacturers and Crown Resorts, the biggest casino company in the southern hemisphere.

Aristocrat is the main defendant and it has just spent $US500m buying an Israeli online gaming company, sparking an attempted rebrand as a technology company rather than a pokies manufacturing company.

Machine design is a hot issue because Australian-style pokies have long been the most addictive and dangerous pokies in the world.

The machines are very complicated and the trial could become quite technical.

The brave plaintiff, Shonica Guy, will be in town from Adelaide for the first few days of the trial and supporters are encouraged to join her in court.

Remember that the case is not a class action and Shonica isn’t seeking any compensation, just a declaration of unconscionable conduct and that the machines are misleading and deceptive.

Yes folks, in the country where citizens lose a staggering $12 billion on these machines, the pokies really are on trial!

Stay tuned for more updates.

2. AFL pokies campaign bearing fruit

The AFL has established a high level working party to examine the reliance of the AFL and its clubs on poker machine revenue. The Alliance for Gambling Reform has been constantly drawing attention to this problem – losses on poker machines owned by AFL clubs are close to $100 million annually – and we welcome this review, which goes by the unlikely name of Project Fruit. We hope it will lead to other clubs following the lead of North Melbourne, which has no poker machines, and Geelong, which has announced it will transition out of them.

Richard Goyder, the out-going Wesfarmers CEO and new AFL Commission President, has made his opposition to pokies abundantly clear during an interview with Alan Kohler for The Constant Investor, which formed the basis of this back page lead in The Age on August 21.

He hates them and wants to wind back club dependence on pokies.

The Alliance published our league ladder on AFL pokies losses when the annual Victorian pokies data was released, which made it onto the front page of The Age as Hawthorn once again won the pokies premiership.

This was then updated with the following briefing paper listing the specific losses from all 17 AFL club pokies venues in Victoria.

3. Local battles update – Bendigo, Woolies, Zagames

The VCGLR has rejected an application by Bendigo Stadium Ltd to install 44 new machines at the Wellington Hotel in Bendigo, directly opposite a Catholic Primary School. The Alliance and local community groups opposed this application through the local media and working with local community groups.

The decision is encouraging, as are the comments of the disappointed applicant, who made the following comment to The Bendigo Advertiser: “They (the VCGLR) have made decisions which they weren’t making 12 months ago. I think they (the VCGLR) have come under a serious amount of criticism for previous decisions made, for not weighing up the benefits or harm to the community”.

We hope he is right and also recommend you all read this excellent editorial in The Bendigo Advertiser.

Alliance director Tom Cummings continues to battle a Zagames proposal to add 10 more machines to its enormous Berwick venue and persuaded the City of Casey to appear before the VCGLR at a hearing on August 29. See the coverage in the local paper on how Tom rallied the local community. We await the commission’s decision.

The recent VCGLR decision rejecting a proposal from the Noble Park Football Club to add 20 more machines to its existing 50 machines continues to resonate, because of the trail-blazing references to family violence.

As the commissioners noted, City of Greater Dandenong suffers the highest level of disadvantage of any Victorian community and the highest reported levels of family violence. It is worth reading the 33 page Noble Park decision in full.

Council resistance to poker machine expansion is strengthening across Victoria. After 10 days of evidence so far, City of Whittlesea and other parties, including Alliance director Cr Susan Rennie, will be back before VCAT for one final hearing day on September 20 in the titanic battle against Woolworths and pokies billionaire Bruce Mathieson, who want to introduce pokies into the heritage Commercial Hotel in South Morang.

This is already the longest VCAT battle over pokies in Victorian history, partly because a wide cross-section of community groups have lined up to oppose the application. See how The Whittlesea Leader covered proceedings after the first 6 days.

It was expected that August 30 was going to be the last day of this case when the Tribunal heard final submissions from Woolworths, Chris Howse from Whittlesea Community Connections and City of Whittlesea.

But council had more to say, so on September 20 they will be finishing their closing submission, Woolworths will have a right of reply and then there will be a discussion about draft permit conditions.

When combined with the pokies on trial court case, September is a big month in Melbourne for legal processes about these addictive devices.

4. Lucrative Sydney pokies pubs

If you want an insight into the way pokies make extra big profits from vulnerable people in poorer suburbs, take a look at this extraordinary 75 page prospectus put out by Andrew Pridham’s investment bank Moelis, which is looking to raise $300 million from investors for its Redcape hotels business.

Pokies operators usually try to be discreet about the harm they cause, but Moelis has really let it all hang out in this document, gloating that all its pubs are focussed on poker machines, it has lots pubs in Sydney’s south west “gaming corridor” and that NSW regulations are expected to remain weak.

Pridham is chairman of the Sydney Swans, which got rid of its King Cross poker machines venue a few years back. Not a good look when the AFL is attempting to distance itself from poker machines.

The notorious Moelis prospectus was discussed during the opening 10 minutes of Richard Glover’s program on ABC Sydney on August 22.

The Sydney Morning Herald also recently ran this front page story on the most lucrative pokies pubs in Sydney.

Pubs are limited to just 30 machines each in Sydney but it is extraordinary to think there are more than 2600 pokies venues across NSW.

As we outlined in this recent press release about sky-rocketing losses in NSW, there are 1548 NSW pokies hotels which collectively host 23,033 machines, or some 24.8% of all machines across the state.

Compare that with Victoria where there are only 502 pokies venues in total.

5. Great speakers in Wollongong tomorrow for Gambling Impact Society seminar

The Gambling Impact Society of NSW has lined up a fabulous range of speakers at tomorrow’s one-day seminar on gambling harm.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, who Sportsbet (apologies for even mentioning them) tips is set to be returned in Saturday’s election, is giving the opening address, with other speakers including our very own Tony Mohr,  NSW MP Justin Field and Tim and Anna Lawrence from Proudly Pokies Free.

If you can make it, go here for more information.

6. Longer hours for libraries, shorter hours for poker machine venues

We’re delighted to report that four of our Leadership Councils in Victoria have been successful in receiving support from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation for the Libraries After Dark project. The Cities of Whittlesea, Darebin, Hume and Moreland will now be able to keep their libraries open for longer, thereby providing recreation and entertainment for their residents which is less perilous than poker machine venues. The success of the project depends in considerable part on people being aware of it, so spread the message.

Reduced operating hours for poker machine venues is another reform worthy of support. In Victoria, venues can operate up to 20 hours a day and the biggest operator, Woolworths, is the worst practitioner in terms of having its big hotel venues open into the early hours of the morning 7 days a week. See this recent Alliance press release about how Woolworths is now relying on its pokies hotels for more than 10% of total profit.

The biggest pokies pusher in Australia will definitely be hearing from us at their AGM in Melbourne on November 23.

That’s all for now.

Do ya best, The Alliance team.