Sat, Dec 10, 10:06am by Staff Writer
As the Victorian government continues an internal review of the state’s gambling industry, and specifically, how current regulations may be bolstered to protect problem gamblers, a local industry expert is speaking out against alleged cooperation with Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
Per a report published in by The Guardian, Monash University researcher Charles Livingstone claims that the governmental regulatory review is designed to exempt Crown Casino – one of Victoria’s prime economic engines.
Livingstone serves as Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, specialising on the health policies and social theories underpinning gambling addiction. As part of his continued research on the impact of gambling on Australian society, Livingstone is also an International Editorial Board member for the Journal of International Gambling Studies.
The Victorian government’s recent call for feedback from the community, and gambling industry stakeholders, was made within an overall review of the state’s current regulatory climate. Officially known as the Gaming Machine Harm Minimisation Measures, the 19-part questionnaire includes prompts such as “Should venue operators be able to exchange personal cheques for cash?” and “Are self-exclusion programs best administered by the industry or by another body?”
The review was designed to highlight deficiencies in the ways 24-hour gambling volume is restricted, the limits placed on cash withdrawals on-site, maximum allowances on note acceptors, the so-called “auto-play” function on pokies and electronic table games, and the activity limits placed on electronic gambling machines.
But during his interview with The Guardian, Livingstone pointed out that most of the regulations to be examined through the ongoing review don’t apply to Crown Casino – the largest casino in the country:
“Casinos have ATMs in their lobbies, whereas pubs and clubs can’t do that anymore. By and large casinos haven’t been bound by many of the measures aimed at pubs and clubs. Loyalty cards in casinos allow unrestricted maximum bets. The pre-commitment system [restrictions on gaming machine expenditure] is voluntary and unlikely to be taken up by those experiencing harm.”
In Livingstone’s estimation, the review is structured in such a way as to shield Crown Casino from potential impact, by favouring the corporate casino industry over private pubs and clubs:
“The review also needs to look at the processes around electronic gaming machine approval. This is an inflexible and ill-defined process with no guidelines, and is very industry friendly, with 94% of applications approved between 2007 and 2014.”
“Leaving that out will annoy the local governments, who want it changed.”
Livingstone also criticized the review’s timing, as submissions to the questionnaire are only open through 5 p.m. local time on Monday, January 16.
“It’s odd that they’re doing it over the silly season. Maybe they want it to slip under the radar? Industry, of course, will be well prepared.”
Marlene Kairouz , Victoria’s minister for gaming and liquor regulation, told The Guardian that the review was ‘long overdue’, before outlining the government’s ostensible objective for investigating the efficacy of current problem gambling regulations:
“We can’t ignore the harm caused by gaming machines. We’re seeking the right balance between protecting problem gamblers and ensuring the current rules are up to date.”
Victoria has installed 26,330 electronic gaming machines, over the last 24 years since legalising the industry, with those pokies generating $50.7 billion in wins for casinos, pubs, and clubs.
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