Anti-gambling advocates and church groups have reacted with disappointment to the Federal Government’s muted response to a comprehensive report on gambling in Australia.
The Productivity Commission last week published a comprehensive report on gambling. Among its recommendations were limiting to $1 the total maximum bet for each button push of a poker machine, restricting to $20 the amount fed into a machine at the one time, and mandatory six-hour lockout periods at pubs and clubs.
In responding to the report, the Government has failed to adopt, but not ruled out, each of the above recommendations. Instead, the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, and the Assistant Treasurer, Nick Sherry, will jointly chair a council on gambling reform to be set up as part of the Council of Australian Governments and feature two representatives from each state.
World Vision chief executive Tim Costello, who has been a long-time campaigner against poker machines, expressed disappointment at the Government’s soft response to the report. Toby Hall, chief executive officer of Mission Australia, queried whether the federal government was really committed to making the states reduce their reliance on gambling revenue.
Reportedly, governments across Australia make about $5 billion a year from gambling taxes, and the Labor Party has received millions in political donations. The Productivity Commission report revealed that Australians spend about $19bn a year on gambling and that the cost to problem gamblers was between $4.7bn and $8.4bn a year.
Unsurprisingly, the clubs industry, which generates about 60 per cent of its revenue from gambling, and poker machine manufacturers, welcomed the Government’s response to the report. It would appear that their interests, and those of state governments who rely so heavily on gambling revenue, have been considered before those of vulnerable problem gamblers and their families.