Clubs’ new plan against pre-commitment

By James Massola, The Australian, Nov 21

Clubs Australia will launch a new industry plan to tackle problem gambling as part of its bid to scuttle proposed mandatory pre-commitment technology on poker machines.

As Labor MPs in New South Wales and Queensland come under mounting pressure over the deal struck by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Clubs Australia chief executive Anthony Ball also attacked a Greens’ proposal to set $1 bet limits and jackpot limits of $500, saying it would hit the industry just as hard as the $3 billion mandatory pre-commitment measures.

Calling for “abstinence” to tackle problem gambling, Mr Ball said the new policy would offer a sensible alternative to mandatory pre-commitment.

“It’s like saying to an alcoholic mate, I know you are an alco, but here’s a card, limit yourself to two or three drinks. Abstinence is the right treatment,” he said.

Mr Ball said the industry’s proposals to tackle problem gambling, to be revealed in December, would include better counselling and stronger self-exclusions measures, while intervention by better-trained staff at venues and families was also central.

“What we want to do is around intervening, excluding and then treating,” he said.

“What we need to do is better train our staff. There is responsible conduct of gambling training, but we need to do more to help I think identify those problematic behaviours.”

Asked about the efficacy of intervention, Mr Ball said: “We believe that’s very important, third-party interventions, particularly for families”.

“It will help us do our work in the club to get the person out and once they are out, we keep them out with stronger self-exclusion and we can improve the counselling regime and the treatment regime,” he said.

Mr Ball said independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s mandatory pre-commitment plan and the Greens $1 bet limit proposal were “as bad as each other”.

“We think that there are things you can do in a cost-effective way to help problem gamblers without killing an industry,” Mr Ball said, emphasising the industry still supported a trial of voluntary pre-commitment measures.

While he accused Julia Gillard of agreeing to Mr Wilkie’s demand for mandatory pre-commitment in backroom deal to secure Labor government, Mr Ball gave the Coalition’s policy a big tick.

Mr Ball revealed his organisation had set aside $9.5 million to fight the pre-commitment measures, with $3 million spent so far.

He denied Clubs Australia was trying to bring down the Labor government, despite Clubs Australia’s advertising campaign personally targeting local ALP MPs.

“We’ve got no interest in making or breaking government, we have an interest in good policy,” Mr Ball said.