With miners and tobacco companies running well-funded campaigns against perectly reasonable government policies, it’s hardly surprising that the licensed clubs industry is looking at similar measures to combat imposition of compulsory pre-commitment settings on poker machines for all players. They’re already cranking up threats to influence the gullible:
Clubs in NSW must spend 1.5 per cent of poker machine revenue over $1 million on community programs, and they have warned that their sponsorship of local sports teams and charities will be slashed if mandatory poker machine restrictions are introduced. …
The marketing manager of Bankstown Sports Club, Chris Passanah, … said the club’s charity funding would be slashed if the poker machine legislation was passed and revenue dropped. ”It will kill us – the mandatory nature and getting people to sign up to a form. We will have to pull back from the community.”
In fact there’s scant basis for this scare campaign, as South Australian field trials of the technology last year demonstrated:
The PlaySmart trial – one of the largest trials of pre-commitment conducted in Australia – shows that pre-commitment can be effective in reducing the amount problem gamblers spend on poker machines.
PlaySmart is a card-based pre-commitment system with onscreen warnings to remind players when they have reached their spending limit or time limit and when to take a break from playing.
The study, involving 268 people, found that net turnover on poker machines by problem gamblers using the pre-commitment system decreased by 56 per cent.
Pre-commitment technology did not appear to significantly impact on the spending behaviours of recreational gamblers, where turnover decreased by only five per cent.
British research by the UK Gambling Commission shows that the prevalence of problem gambling in the community is around 0.9% of the population, which hardly suggests a precipitous drop in clubs’ income if compulsory pre-commitment is introduced. Moreover, the moral dimension of the clubs’ attitude is fairly breathtaking when you think about it. It’s closely akin to heroin traffickers objecting that they’re not being allowed to make money out of their addicted customer base, and should be treated with similar contempt.
In a more general sense, these campaigns by blatantly self-interested industry groups have made me to rethink my attitude towards government advertising campaigns pushing intended policy measures (as well as ones that have been actually implemented). Labor’s objections to the Howard government’s massive spending on marketing WorkChoices seemed plausible at the time (despite the hypocrisy involved in simulataneously gleefully taking advantage of opposing union movement advertising funded by union members whether they liked it or not). However the success of the mining industry campaign against Rudd’s “super profits'” tax, and the current campaigns by Big Tobacco, Big Mining and Big Clubs, rather suggest that we’re condemned to permanent policy paralysis unless we reluctantly concede the right of elected governments to spend public funds promoting their policies. It’s just too easy for wealthy sectional interests (business, unions or whatever) to frighten a complacent public into fearful oppositionism on any given policy issue.