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GAMBLING LESS
 
 

ACHIEVEMENT: The maximum number of Electronic Gaming machines in the City of Melbourne is reduced, and proportional reductions in hotels are continuing on an annual basis. A drastic reduction in the number of EGMs will be one of the most effective methods of reducing problem gambling, if conducted in such a way as to reduce accessibility of EGMs. Where Electronic Gaming machines are removed from service, they are not relocated.

The City of Melbourne maintains its membership of the Local Government Gambling Working Group.

TARGET DATE: Electronic Gaming Machine reductions: July 2004. VLGA Gambling Working Group membership: Achieved. PROGRESS: Achieved.

DESCRIPTION: This policy concentrates on the reduction of Electronic Gaming Machines, which appears to be the most practical and effective means of reducing problem gambling. This outline of the social and economic cost of Gambling in Victoria, detailed below, provides a good snapshot of the extent of problem gambling in Victoria. The full policy is detailed in the further information section.

In 1999, the Productivity Commission (“Australia’s gambling Industries”, Report No. 10, AusInfo, Canberra, 1999) found that Australia had 20.4 per cent of the world's high-intensity poker machines and that Australian machines were among the most aggressive in terms of annual throughput in the world. In Victoria, up to 27,500 EGMs are allowed to operate, in addition to the machines in the casino. In 2001/2, Victorians lost more than $2.5 Billion on EGMs. The social costs of this level of gambling are enormous. The Productivity Commission estimated that there were approximately 76,000 people with gambling problems in Victoria. For every person with a gambling problem, at least five other people are affected to varying degrees by that person’s problems. The Productivity Commission also found that there are 1,600 gambling-related divorces per year nationally and that 13% of people in counselling for gambling problems reporting that their gambling had caused domestic or other violence. The Uniting Church estimates that just in Victoria, 30,000 families have been harmed by problem gambling. One in ten people with gambling problems reported that they had contemplated suicide and nearly half of those in counselling for gambling problems reported losing time from work or study in the past year due to gambling. Problem gambling contributes to impoverishment, homelessness, psychological problems including stress, loss of trust and depression, relationship breakdown and violence in the home. A 1999 Australian Medical Association policy statement said GPs “should include gambling as part of their systemic lifestyle risks assessment when taking a medical history”.

Problem Gambling also leads to increased crime in the community. Based on court records, last year people with gambling problems were convicted of stealing more than $11.7 million. The reduction in disposable income has also had a dramatic effect on the viability of small business, which in turn impacts on employment. Of course, the social cost of problem gambling is not distributed evenly in the community. The greatest proportion of machines is located in poorer socio-economic areas. A Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority report (Social and Economic Effects of Electronic Gaming Machines on Non-Metropolitan Communities December 1997) found that the EGM tax burden on people earning less than $10,000 per year is 6400% of that paid by people earning over $60,000. Despite these overwhelming statistics, obtaining meaningful reform in this area is very difficult. The gambling industry, government and opposition continually focus on self-help, identification or early intervention strategies but not structural reform.

However, identification and intervention strategies are extremely complex to devise and implement. While we wait for research to assist with this, the industry have continually increased the intensity of play and thereby the size of the problem. For example, at the time of the Productivity Commission’s report in 1999, gambling revenue as a proportion of Victoria’s taxes was 16 per cent. According to a recent report by David Hayward, gambling related government revenue will reach $1.9 billion in the 2002-2003 financial year and $1.24 billion will come from electronic gaming machines, elevating Victoria to the most gambling-dependent state in Australia and among the most gambling dependent in the world. A similar situation exists in NSW. State Governments reliance on gambling revenue makes real reform very difficult to implement, despite overwhelming public support.

I became a member of the Victorian Local Government Association's Gambling Working Group when I was first elected in 1999. After maintaining membership and attending meetings for about one year, due to time constraints, I was unable to continue. I ensured that the City of Melbourne sent a staff member in my place. The Victorian Local Government Association's Gambling Working Group who has worked hard towards the policy changes at a State level that have occurred over the last three years.

Melbourne City Council had not at that stage joined a study on gambling issues in Victoria. I secured the $10,000 needed to complete work within the City of Melbourne, which contributed to the information that led to the State level reforms.

FURTHER INFORMATION: The Greens Victoria – Fair Gambling Policy

1. Background: An outline of the social and economic cost of Gambling in Victoria

In 1999, the Productivity Commission (“Australia’s gambling Industries”, Report No. 10, AusInfo, Canberra, 1999) found that Australia had 20.4 per cent of the world's high-intensity poker machines and that Australian machines were among the most aggressive in terms of annual throughput in the world. In Victoria, up to 27,500 EGMs are allowed to operate, in addition to the machines in the casino. In 2001/2, Victorians lost more than $2.5 Billion on EGMs. The social costs of this level of gambling are enormous. The Productivity Commission estimated that there were approximately 76,000 people with gambling problems in Victoria. For every person with a gambling problem, at least five other people are affected to varying degrees by that person’s problems. The Productivity Commission also found that there are 1,600 gambling-related divorces per year nationally and that 13% of people in counselling for gambling problems reporting that their gambling had caused domestic or other violence. The Uniting Church estimates that just in Victoria, 30,000 families have been harmed by problem gambling. One in ten people with gambling problems reported that they had contemplated suicide and nearly half of those in counselling for gambling problems reported losing time from work or study in the past year due to gambling. Problem gambling contributes to impoverishment, homelessness, psychological problems including stress, loss of trust and depression, relationship breakdown and violence in the home. A 1999 Australian Medical Association policy statement said GPs “should include gambling as part of their systemic lifestyle risks assessment when taking a medical history”.

Problem Gambling also leads to increased crime in the community. Based on court records, last year people with gambling problems were convicted of stealing more than $11.7 million. The reduction in disposable income has also had a dramatic effect on the viability of small business, which in turn impacts on employment. Of course, the social cost of problem gambling is not distributed evenly in the community. The greatest proportion of machines is located in poorer socio-economic areas. A Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority report (Social and Economic Effects of Electronic Gaming Machines on Non-Metropolitan Communities December 1997) found that the EGM tax burden on people earning less than $10,000 per year is 6400% of that paid by people earning over $60,000. Despite these overwhelming statistics, obtaining meaningful reform in this area is very difficult. The gambling industry, government and opposition continually focus on self-help, identification or early intervention strategies but not structural reform.

However, identification and intervention strategies are extremely complex to devise and implement. While we wait for research to assist with this, the industry have continually increased the intensity of play and thereby the size of the problem. For example, at the time of the Productivity Commission’s report in 1999, gambling revenue as a proportion of Victoria’s taxes was 16 per cent. According to a recent report by David Hayward, gambling related government revenue will reach $1.9 billion in the 2002-2003 financial year and $1.24 billion will come from electronic gaming machines, elevating Victoria to the most gambling-dependent state in Australia and among the most gambling dependent in the world. A similar situation exists in NSW. State Governments reliance on gambling revenue makes real reform very difficult to implement, despite overwhelming public support.

2. Principles.

The Greens believe that:
2.1 The State operational budget should not depend on Gambling Revenue.
2.2 Governments should take the lead in addressing individual and community problems arising from gambling.

3. Goals.

The Greens will work towards:
3.1 A reduction in problem gambling;
3.2 The elimination of EGMs from hotels;
3.3 National Standards on Gambling to avoid interstate competition.

4. Short Term Targets.

The Victorian Greens will:
4.1 Reduce the maximum number of Electronic Gaming machines (EGMs) to no more than 15,000 within 5 years, and continue proportional reductions in hotels on an annual basis. A drastic reduction in the number of EGMs will be one of the most effective methods of reducing problem gambling, if conducted in such a way as to reduce accessibility of EGMs.

4.1.1 Where regional limits apply, then regional reductions shall reflect the overall proportional reductions.

4.1.2 Municipal limits to be based on average municipal resident rates revenue, with over-limit EGMs to be removed from service, and not just relocated.

4.2 Reduce Intensity of Play
· Legislate to establish a limit on the maximum amount of money that may be lost per hour on an EGM through the slowing of spin times, and the programming of breaks in machine operation. This limit should be set at no more that $50 per hour. Assuming an EGM could be played 21 hours a day for 360 days a year, this limit would still allow theoretical maximum annual revenue per EGM of $378,000.

4.3 Remove ATMs from venues
· Remove ATMs from any building with a gambling license, and new external ATMs not to be approved within 100m of any “gaming venue”.
· Ensure EFTPOS facilities within such buildings do not permit cash withdrawals.

4.4 Regulate to ensure winnings over $250 are paid by Cheque. This is already the case in under Queensland and Northern Territory regulations.

4.5 Regulate, in a similar way to cigarette requirements, that where there is advertising of Gaming machines, including hotel signs, warnings of a similar prominence regarding potential addiction shall be displayed.

4.6 Regulate for signs on all EGMs giving the expected loss to the player per $100 spent, and translated in the standard languages.

4.7 Ensure a ban on food and beverage service into gaming rooms.

4.8 Implement a $10 maximum play on EGMs.

4.9 Restructure the Regulation of Gambling
· It is inappropriate that the government department that is the chief beneficiary of gambling in Victoria is also the department responsible for gambling regulation. Legislation should require that the regulator be an independent statutory organisation with the explicit role of minimising the social and economic costs of gambling.

4.10 Legislate to eliminate linked venue jackpots.

 

Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

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