Friday, November 18, 2011

Fixing Problem Gambling

A few years ago, Queensland had a really really memorable Premier guy, hopeless except for two things:

He was a great retail politician & a larger than life identity.

His performance as custodian of our state was such that he should be in Jail. For in a time of booming resources, of the state being in receipt of royalties you can't showjump over, he managed to pretty much run the state broke.

All that aside, one populist stunt of his was a measure to "reduce problem gambling". Specifically poker machines & the "damage" they did.

In the current writings about proposed poker machine reform, it has escaped the notice of all Qld journalists (trained investigative reporters, one & all) that poker machine protocols in Qld are very different to NSW.

The maximum bet per spin in Qld is Five Dollars. Half that of NSW.

Qld poker machines will accept banknotes up to $20 denomination. NSW poker machines will accept any denomination banknote.

Qld used to accept higher denomination notes. Then 10 years ago this really smart Premier guy decided to "limit problem gambling" by eliminating from poker machines all notes above $20.

Actually it went much further than that. The amount a player could insert into a machine was limited to $20 (4 spins of the reels) during play, when the amount of credits lowered, a second $20 or other note would be allowed to be inserted, but total credit could not be more than $40.

You can imagine how this went down with the players, constantly having to stop & feed money in.

This worked. Poker machine play in Qld came very nearly to a halt. Within a couple of days some very high profile publicans were phoning government ministers to gloatingly inform that their pub no longer was liable to pay the extra super-tax applicable to high gaming turnover pubs.**

Govt ministers failed to see the joke. They had implemented the reforms in the belief that it would make no difference to poker machine turnover.

Within a few days the government demonstrated their committment to gambling reform by reversing the limit. To save face, the limit to $20 notes remained, but players could now shove in enough money to buy some serious "zone-out" time at a poker machine.

The story does not end here. For now comes the really good part, that is known to very few, is now revealed by whistle-blower me:

When the abovementioned restrictions were slapped on poker machines, the following day the TAB saw one of the largest turnover increases in history.
Even though the poker machine restrictions were reversed within a week, the gamblers who went to the TAB did not return to poker machines.

There are people whose gambling needs involve placing a significant amount of money at risk.

They can do this on the horses.

In the Wayside Tavern people bet up to $5 per spin on the poker machines. In the PubTAB there are punters who will bet up to $10,000 on a single race. Some of these fellows will make several bets in the range of $2,000 - $6,000 over the course of a single day.

This eclipses poker machine activity.

No measure to minimise the harm of gambling is going to work unless all forms of gambling are equally restricted (including scratch tickets & lotteries), but especially the new forum of online gambling.

Attacking poker machines is merely a populist political stunt by unsophisticated (read: none-too-bright) plonkers who have little to no knowledge or experience of any form of gambling.

**(Yes, there is a super-tax on "very high" pub gaming profits in Qld, has been for more than 10 years, something else that has slipped past every last member of Qld's cohort of trained investigative reporters.)

1 comment:

KurtP said...

Why are Liberals always surprised when the laws they make end up doing exactly what someone with horse sense could have told them would happen?

But then again, pols are pols and as soon as their elected forget how normal people think.