The dust hasn’t yet settled on Australia’s recent election, but Nick Xenophon looks set to have a strong position in the senate, giving him a powerful voice in return for supporting government on legislation.
And Xenophon has wasted no time in driving his anti-gambling policy agenda. Last Thursday he joined independent Andrew Wilkie to push for a Joint Selection Committee on gambling reform.
The key focus would be on online gambling reforms but the crossbenchers also want to see sweeping restrictions to be placed on poker machines, calling for $1 maximum bets and limiting losses to $120 per hour.
Under the proposal, each poker machine would need to implement additional technology, estimated to cost the industry around $1.5 billion.
It is the exact same proposal that has already been rejected by two Parliamentary inquiries, one of which was even chaired by Andrew Wilkie.
Clubs Australia Executive Director Anthony Ball refuted the pairs proposals, saying the reforms would have little effect on problem gamblers as most bet in amounts smaller than $1. “The economic, social and employment cost of this policy thought-bubble from Xenophon and Wilkie are even more astounding when you consider the majority of problem gamblers belt less than $1 per spin” he said.
Mr Ball went on to say that “The establishment of another committee on gambling to consider a bad plan that had been rejected multiple times, is poor use of parliament time.”
Clubs Australia, with the support of governments has introduced a range of evidence-based, cost-effective and targeted solutions to help address problem gambling such as the world-first Online Multi-Venue Self Exclusion system, club chaplaincy and counselling services.
Xenophon and Wilkie also called for restrictions on online gambling and for a ban on sports-betting advertising in G-rated programs and during live sports broadcasts.
Australian Wagering Council chief Ian Fletcher said corporate bookmakers were open to working with government on advertising, but discussions had to be sensible. More than 3,000 people are directly employed by the wagering industry. “Australians need and deserve a balanced and national wagering framework. It should include consistent regulation of advertising content, volume and placement,” Mr Fletcher said.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the Coalition is already addressing problem gambling through new legislation. “The government is implementing the most significant package of reforms ever put in place to combat problem gambling in response to the O’Farrell review into illegal offshore wagering,” Mr Tudge said.
Seven West Media also weighed in on the argument, hitting out on moves to ban betting advertising during sport on television with chief executive Tim Worner labelling the push by the crossbenchers as “draconian”. TV networks would miss out on the bulk of the $150 million currently spent by bookmakers during sports events.
Interestingly enough Senator Xenophon said any advertising ban would not apply to horse racing. Does that mean he doesn’t think there are any problem gamblers who bet on the horses? Selective discrimination maybe?