I could be almost certain that in the last few months, you may have heard about something called the ‘pokies reform’. To be honest, I had little knowledge about the proposed pokies reform until I researched the topic further, so my hat goes off to you if you have kept up to date and understood the reform from the beginning!
To start explaining what the pokies reform is, it’s important to know how it came about. Back in 2010 at the last federal election, both the Labor and Liberal party landed 72 seats each, which is four seats short for a majority government. Because of this hung parliament, it was up to independent MPs to side with either Labor or Liberal to create the majority parliament. At this time, Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie sided with the Labor party - on the condition that Labor must support the pokies reform.
A simple quick check of Andrew Wilkie’s website shows just how passionate he is about the pokies reform. Wilkie’s website is covered in the latest news on the reform and facts about gambling. Wilkie’s website states that each year, 5 billion dollars is lost to poker machines by problem gamblers. To put that in perspective for you, more than half a million dollars is lost to the pokies each week, just in Hobart and Glenorchy. Also stated is the fact that, on average, problem gamblers spend 21 thousand a year on gambling. Whether that is money lost on poker machines or other gambling outlets, it is not hard to conclude that there is money that is not being spent on food, bills or supporting a family. The facts are shocking! So much money is disappearing into chance and luck games, instead of creating a better life for the gambler or their family. It is because of this, Andrew Wilkie has negotiated the national implementation of a mandatory pre-commitment system in poker machines, which means that before people start gambling, they themselves can decide how much it is that they want to spend on any one day or night. They can set their own limits and then they can stick to them with the help of pre-commitment technology.
The pokies reform sounds all well and good in the helping of problem gamblers, but early this year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard pulled out of supporting the pokies reform. This was a huge slap in the face to Wilkie! Gillard and Wilkie both signed an agreement for the pokies reform, and to have Gillard back peddle on their agreement meant a delay in the pre-commitment technology. In response to Gillard taking back her word, Wilkie has announced that he has withdrawn his support of the Labor government. Since all the pokies reform shenanigans, the Labor Government have come back and said they will support a watered down approach to problem gambling. In spite of this, Wilkie will still not support the Government. Wilkie was quoted saying: ‘…the issue is not that the Government is not progressing poker machine reform. Rather the issue is that the Government has decided it can’t deliver on the reforms it agreed to, which I’ve insisted repeatedly were the basis for my ongoing support and which I’ve honoured since the agreement was made some 16 months ago.”
Oh dear. It is clear that there are certainly a lot going on with problem gambling in Australia, particularly in regards to politics. What do you think about it all? Should the original reform go ahead? Or is Andrew Wilkie overreacting. I would love to hear your thoughts on the hot topic!!