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30 August 2010

Australian Gambling And Political Wars Reach New Level, by Greg Tingle - 30th August 2010

The Australian gaming, casino and political wars are reaching new heights, with at least 2 Aussie MP's seemingly making it their mission in life to take on the pokies. Some insiders say they should get a a life, with others say they are fighting the good fight. Yep, Australia's thought police are having another crack. What's interesting in that most agree that further regulation would be a good thing, but for most change isn't happening soon enough, despite the release of the Australian Productivity Report into gaming and gambling. Media Man and Gambling911 probe the relationship between politics and Aussie casinos, gaming and gambling...

Much stronger regulation of Australia's $10 billion slot machine aka "pokie" industry may become a significant issue in determining the nation's next government, after a independent lawmaker called for gambling reform this past Friday.

MP Andrew 'Wild & Witty' (MM tag) Wilkie is one of (gang of) 5 cross-bench lawmakers who will help determine which of Australia's two major political parties form a minority government after an inconclusive election.

The 'wild and witty' one called for a crackdown on slot machines, blaming them for causing addiction and misery for families.

One may pose the question, are the people or the machines this problem, or is it a combination? Or, are some MP's just looking for a point of difference and platform to stand out from the pack? Some saw a Melbourne media identity playing the anti pokies card and slogan as not much more than an elaborate media stunt.

Let's now cross for some rip snorted quotes from our learned friend...

"This in particular is one issue where I would demand reform," he told the press, joined by a sitting independent senator who has been a passionate advocate of tighter regulation. "I would not regard inaction any longer as acceptable."

Slots aka pokies are prevalent in pubs, not just casinos, and account for the majority of the gambling - gaming industry's turnover. Aussies gambled A$10.5 billion on slots in pubs and clubs in the year to June 2009, and another A$1.4 billion on machines in casinos, according to government data. Just quite how much goes to online casinos isn't as clear, and website portals such as Casino News Media and Global Gaming Directory are doing well out of it, but the number is thought to be millions, perhaps billions. Let's see.. x website portals x 200 games, plus a Hitwise top ten website portal and news media... strong combo. Leading brand names such as Marvel Entertainment (Thor and Hulk etc), Paramount Pictures, Google, Sony, FremantleMedia, IGT (Cleopatra etc) and Hasbro (Monopoly) are also in on the act. The punters and casinos often prefer the branded slots, as they command a loyal audience.

Listed Aussie companies that are plugged into slot machine revenues include gaming and wagering groups Tabcorp Holdings, Tatts and Crown Limited as well as Aristocrat Leisure, which just happens to be the world's 2nd largest maker of pokies aka "one armed bandits".

Regulation of gambling sits with Australia's 6 states, but national and state governments work together, or so they say, to ensure a coordinated approach to regulatory issues.

The states currently rely heavily on taxes from slots but they also rely on Canberra for funding support, which is understood to give the national government leverage in areas of state influence. You know, 'How to win friends and influence people'. Look it up, if you haven't already. It's a great read.

Wilkie said he desired single bets limited to A$1 ($0.89) each and players prevented from spending more than A$120 an hour. Currently, players can wager as much as A$10 every time they activate the bandit. Some say the 'thought police' should but out, but others say some people need protection from themselves, so the machines need to be adjusted or replaced. Cleopatra was not open to an interview on the matter when probed... just kidding... inside joke.

"This is something that will reduce the hurt," he said. The witty one went on to add that that 40-50% of slot-machine losses were suffered by problem gamblers, but many media commentators have disputed his % claim saying its closer to 2 - 10%, and that he's going for shock value and headlines, and needs to stick to the facts, or end up looking like a goose... one without a golden egg.

Wilkie advised he would raise his plan during his meetings with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and with opposition leader Tony "The Bruiser" Abbott, set for today at this stage.

Both Gillard's Labor party and Abbott's conservative coalition have been reluctant to crack down on the gambling industry because of its funding importance to the states, which are also traditionally governed by one of the major parties.

Both mainstream news media and gaming media will be watching this space with bated breath, so don't change your dial.

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Readers, what's your take on the situation? What's your favorite games? Who is your favorite politician, if you have one? Should further regulation be introduced, and why or why not.

Aussie MP's may find encouragement in this classic line... One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man (Elbert Hubbard).

We can't help wondering what would have the late, great, Kerry Packer proposed if he were still with us. Maybe there's an opportunity here for Australian casino and lifestyle king, James Packer, to go public on this thoughts about the way the Australian traditional and internet gaming landscape should be further developed and regulated. Possible or 'Mission: Impossible'? Over to you Mr Packer, punters, one and all. Let them know you heard it on the Gambling911 and Media Man 'Bush Telegraph', just around the corner from 'Goanna Gold' and Bondi Beaches' Golden Mile. 'Casino Jack', stay on hold, we won't call unless we need to, or decide to add a surge of additional fun and games to the giant political chess board. Cheque, cash or Check Mate?

Readers, know the odds, bet with your head, not over it, and have fun. Good punting, and keep your politicians honest.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming.

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