‘If clubs fail, the economic and social contribution they make will also disappear and at the expense of the broader community’
Dear ACT Legislative Assembly,
Do we really need pokies in the ACT? It seems cruel to still need to rake over this in 2013, but life’s not all marriage equality and light rail. Annually, we’re downing around $180m through the bandits, $13m of which goes to ‘community causes’ – mostly sport. After expenses, the clubs get enough for around 333 Sky Whales. Given the raging eye-spasms so many suffered over just one fabulous Sky Whale, I think it’s prudent to talk about what we’re really getting for all this society-defining economic activity.
As ClubsACT love to remind us in the comments section of RiotACT, there are some essential community services funded directly from gaming revenue. However, let’s not sugarcoat it. These benefits come directly from people who’ve lost money gambling in a system that guarantees they will lose.
The proliferation of pokies and the elegance with which they obfuscate their primary function totally obliterates any idea that the free will of gamers is any safeguard against problem gambling. Cigarette companies are forbidden from even branding their products, so powerful is the enticement. With pokies, we’re literally letting the machines sing for, play with, and ultimately bribe potential problem gamblers, potential mental health illness sufferers, potential suicide victims.
The incredible lure of the machines sees more people gambling at the Ainslie Football Club on a weekday than cheering for the footy team they’re funding on the weekend. More people gambling at the Tradies Club than attending ALP branch meetings. These examples go to the the huge irony of it all. While there are some direct community benefits, the machines represent a distortion that ultimately punishes those communities that are unable or unwilling to suckle from the neon teat.
The Tuggeranong Hawks learned the hard way that no pokies means no first grade team. Pokies-free bars, restaurants, sports teams – not to mention musicians, artists, theatre-makers etc. – are forever fundamentally less competitive for patrons/revenue/public spaces than venues whose chief product is, essentially, nothing.
What would the Canberra Musicians Club do with the $25m the Vikings make annually? It’s a ridiculous thought, but no less ridiculous for mine than giving the equivalent power to a rugby club. If community groups don’t have sufficient public support to survive the free market or compete for public funding, it’s a fair indicator there isn’t much of a community they’re servicing.
C’mon Labor- the federal party has rejected tobacco money. You own the plantation on this one. Divest and rebuild trust with the non-clubs community.
Let’s go Liberals - this is the government’s Achilles heel. ACT Labor own 500-odd machines. In 1800s-speak that’s like owning 20,000 slaves. I’m not sure what you guys think of abolition, but let’s let it stand as a separate issue.
Mayor King-Maker Shane - I’m not lobbying you, you don’t have the numbers.
The large part of our society that continues to be built around pokies represents a distortion of incentives that, for all the riches reaped, ultimately leaves our community a far poorer place to live in. Get rid of them already.
If nothing else, Queanbeyan will thank us for the boost to their coffers.