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03 June 2010

Australia Gets New Gambling Watchdog Woof, by Greg Tingle - 3rd June 2010

Australian gambling remains politically red hot. With the changes in town comes a new watchdog... yep, a man of a different breed who appears to be a shoot straight, and takes a balanced view of the industry. Media Man, Gambling911 and our pack of sniffer dogs pound the pavement and sniff out the story... Ruff

Meet Mr Ches Baragwanath, Australia's new Gambling Watchdog. No, he's not affiliated with our unmet friends at Affiliate Guard Dog (or CAP or GPWA for that matter).

For the unacquainted, Baragwanath, is a former auditor-general of Australia circa 1990.

This watchdog has a reputation of not taking rubbish from the animals in Parliament or in the gambling sector.

Via Fairfax Media we learned of a previous masterstroke and key happening today's new sheriff in town ....the Victorian government before last November's election, Mr Baragwanath let it be known to the house he has accepted an invitation to become a commissioner for gambling regulation.

His appointment, announced just yesterday, comes at a pivotal time for the Australian gaming and gambling industry. Shakes ups of late include James Packer's Crown Casino growing, politicians are open to seeing the proposed Mildura "Jewel" Casino happen on their watch.

Baragwanath has his finger on the pulse. No spring chicken, at 75 years of age, he's wiser and more experienced that the best of them, and is understood to process a brilliant mind, understand the typical man in the street (and boasts outstation credentials and business contacts). Insiders say he's expect to make fair but tough rulings, and is not a casino lover nor casino hater. Controlled growth and suitable regulation, maintaining balance, are understood to be high on his priorities.

Mr B says "I've spent a bit of time in Las Vegas; it's a soul-destroying place. I would hate Melbourne to become the Las Vegas of the southern hemisphere. Pokies are the most mindless and boring pastime I could imagine". Still, he respects people to play the pokies, and other legal casino games of their choosing.

The personable, hang on, likable, Mr B (Big) loves the horses, having a beer and is known to even try his luck having a punt on Tattslotto, if you believe the media gossip around town.

The Melbourne Age was able to get this rip snorter quote from the man..."Despite what political parties might say in opposition, once they get into government they are fascinated by the revenue that flows from nicotine, booze and gambling - wait until they decide how to tax sex! The Victorian government - and most governments, for that matter - do very well out of problem gamblers, they do very well out of problem drinkers and they do very well out of problem smokers, so they've got a moral obligation to support those people who are harmed by gambling, nicotine and alcohol. I haven't read the Bible for some time, but I seem to recall the Roman soldiers were rolling dice underneath the crucifix. I would say to them, look, 97.5 or 98 per cent of the population enjoy a mild flutter on poker machines. Should they be penalised because 2 per cent can't control themselves? I enjoy a drink. Should I be penalised because some people can't hold their liquor? If gambling went underground, the criminal element could take over. I can remember when I was a kid growing up in Brunswick just near the Union Hotel, the bigwig in the area was the local SP (starting price) bookmaker. Do we really want SP bookmakers back on the scene? To some extent it (the role) is to ensure the criminal element is kept out of this field - you know, we don't want the bloody Mafia buying into hotels with poker machines".

Whether "Blueys" err, Mr Big's bark is bigger than his bite remains to be seen. Insiders meantime question who let the dogs out, and what side of the fence will "Mr Dog" prefer?

Media Man remains a proud shareholder in Crown Casino, understood to remain a focus point of the new sheriff in town. "Mr Big" will also be acutely aware that the funds the pour into the likes of Crown Casino flow back into the community and create real and sustainable employment opportunities, some of which tie in with celebrated employment initiative GenerationOne, a project of which Media Man remains in close contact with.

Casinos remain a key element in the Australian tourism, entertainment and employment landscape, and "Mr Big" will no doubt remind himself of these facts when it comes to the hard decisions that will be coming his way for as long as he holds the top dog position.

Loyal readers of Gambling911, as always bet with your head, not over it, and have fun.

*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. The gaming sector is just one of a bakers of dozen of industries they cover.

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