A social justice advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform has condemned new gaming laws proposed by the South Australian Government. Tim Costello branded the proposals as “appalling” and claims the new laws are a step backwards for South Australia.
Costello is furious about the proposed pokies reforms in South Australia. “More marriage breakups, more bankruptcies, and more hungry kids” are claims Costello makes.
State Parliament will hear the proposals this week before writing them into law. The most controversial change, if passed, is to adapt pokies to accept notes in addition to coins. Notes are already accepted by pokies in several Australian states and New Zealand.
Punters can only currently fund pokies with coins. Many claim this slows down the rate at which problem gambler lose because they have to exchange notes for coins. This, in turn, allows them to keep better track of how much they spend on the machines. Furthermore, it gives the cashier the opportunity to refuse giving coins to potential problem gamblers.
Andrew Robinson, from Adelaide’s south, spent time in jail after his pokies addiction took over his life. Robinson stole money from his employers to fund his addiction and states he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 15-year stint. Unsurprisingly, Robinson is not happy that pokies machines could soon accept notes in addition to coins.
“I’ve stolen money from employers and have been to court over that,” explained Robinson. “I know the damage that poker machines can do. To have notes instead of having to go up and get change. The scary thing is you’ll put that whole $50 through the machine.”
Vickie Chapman, the Attorney General, explained the reforms to ABC Radio Adelaide. Chapman said the reforms also include new harm minimisation measures, not limited to immediate barring orders.
“These measures will increase the usability of our current poker machines cohort and basically bring it into line with the technology interstate. We’ve introduced a number of new initiatives on the protection of the vulnerable gambler, we will add some more.”
Chapman revealed she aims to make it easier for clubs to merge together or transfer gaming machines. Something Chapman believe will reduce the number of machines in South Australia.
“Our proposed measures would also help struggling sporting and community clubs who already hold gaming entitlements to merge together or transfer gaming machines more easily, helping regional centres benefit from more competitive venues while reducing the number of clubs with machines.”
Costello likened the pokies reforms to American gun laws, calling them appalling and claiming the move is backwards.
“Gambling is out blind spot, like guns is the blind spot in America,” said Costello. “It’s why going from coin-operated to cash is really like going from ball and musket rifle in America, the Second Amendment right to carry a gun, to the semi-automatic and claiming the same right to carry a gun. That technology change makes no sense for liberty in America, here what South Australia is going is just going backwards.”
The social justice advocate rubbished claims by Chapman that there is no evidence that pokies accepting notes increased gambling.
After stating two reports from the Productivity Commission recommended slowing down pokies and capping bets at $1, Costello said, “That minimises the damage. This machine, which is unlike any other machine, it sucks out money and it enriches governments, That’s what’s going on here.”
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) welcomed the proposed pokies reforms, which allow for gambling on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
AHA donated more than $42,000 to the Liberal Party this year and more than $6,600 to Labor. The AHA stands to profit from the pokies reforms as it allows punters to gable more freely. Tax generated from pokies for the state government fell from $313 million in 2007 to $270 million last year.
Any pokies reforms have to pass both houses of parliament. Currently, the government has little support from cross-bench MPs but Labor is open to the idea of supporting them.