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Coalition Problem Gambling Policy Is Receiving Criticism

Fri, Aug 30, 8:00am by Kevin Pitstock

Tony AbbottThe Coalition’s policy “to help problem gamblers” is receiving criticism from Labor politicians and media outlets. According to its critics, its problem gambling outreach programs will be placed in the hands of the gambling industry, creating a conflict of interest.

The plan would include an “industry council” stocked with representative of gambling venues like clubs and casinos. This would place the people who stand the most to gain from unfettered gambling addiction in charge of counselling these people.

The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse

Criticism has come from far and wide. The Conversation ran the headline containing the old cliché “fox in charge of the house”. Tim Costello, Chair of the Churches Gambling Taskforce, was fresher when he compared the Australian gaming industry to Dracula. The gaming reform advocate said he was “disappointed and disturbed” by Coalition’s plan.

Mr Costello went on to say, “This is Dracula in charge of the blood bank. There is no question they are going backwards on pokies reform, the public wants reform. The pokies lobby shouldn’t have such power over Coalition policy.”

Coalition’s Gaming Policies

Tony Abbott’s political allies have given their share of criticism, too. His allies have attacked the precommitment proposals by Julia Gillard and Andrew Willkie as being a “license to play”. Coalition politicians argue the power should be taken out of the hands of officials and placed in the hands of private citizens, most notably gamblers and club operators.

For that reason, the Coalition policy makes self-exclusion more effective, while increasing education, counselling, and treatment services. The idea is to give private citizens the tools they need to make proper decisions and let government stay out of the way. Labor’s contention is that leaving the mechanisms of control in the hands of a gambling addict and the people who profit from that addiction is a misguided policy.

If Coalition Wins

Whatever the merits of these proposals, polls are showing every likelihood that Coalition should win control of the Australian Parliament, barring a major blunder on the part of their politicians. If so, then the currently discussed policy will be the law of the land for the foreseeable future, most likely for three years at the minimum.

Criticism of the proposed Coalition gambling policies is one of the strongest cards in Labor’s hand at the moment. The 2013 year in Australia has seen the rise of wave of anti-gambling protests, spurred by the NRL/Waterhouse scandal and the More Joyous affair. Politicians in office have been quick to respond, so a wave of gambling reforms have been enacted at the state and national level. If Tony Abbott becomes the next prime minister, the land-based gambling industry will have weathered the storm and can look forward to a time without many new reforms.

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