The purported greed of clubs and pubs has been well documented over the past week given their vociferous opposition to set limits for poker machine players. Their concern for the welfare of problems gamblers is apparently non-existent. Their profits at the expense of these unfortunates are far more valuable.
However I would speculate that they are not the greediest players. And neither are the gambling addicts the most addicted. The State Governments are both. One in particular, the SA Sate Government, as an addict to poker machine tax, turned a blind eye to their addiction and allowed it to manifest out of control. All the warning signs were ignored.
Here’s an example.
Poker machines were introduced into South Australian hotels and clubs in July, 1994. A decrease of $72,000 was recorded by the Salvation Army in South Australia in 1995 from the previous year’s donations. Coincidentally, South Australia was the only state to record a decrease that year.
It is estimated that in SA the major charities now lose more than $1m in fundraising revenue a year since the introduction of poker machines. One of the considerations cited is that fundraisers in the past had derived significant revenues from the sale of instant bingo tickets and eyes down bingo sessions, both of which have fallen in popularity in favour of the pokies.
As fundraising revenue fell, services provided by charity organisations received cutbacks. Decisions were made at Salvation Army accommodation sites and were adjusted according to available funding. At a random hostel/refuge bedding would have been given to 18 homeless people instead of the maximum, say, 24, or alternatively, another random site may have decided to provide services for six days a week only. The issuing of food vouchers or food parcels was rationed, and if necessary, this service was withdrawn until further funding was available.
There was a mood of concern as to the repercussions that might confront the community in the future. For example, will many of today’s gamblers be tomorrow’s homeless? The number of people and families now seeking assistance from the Salvation Army is increasing an unprecedented 10% each year, and it is likely that welfare agencies could well be drained of resources if this rate continues. With so much money being lost by the public through poker machines, perhaps Governments should have considered channelling more of the windfall back to the public.
Approximately thirteen months after the gaming machines commenced operations in South Australia, the then Premier, Dean Brown, announced that an inquiry would be held into their impact. The subsequent Hill Inquiry failed to conclude their impact on the charity organisations. Whilst it confirmed that fundraising had fallen significantly in that period, it was inconclusive that poker machines were the sole cause. Other factors cited as possible causes included that fundraising had become competitive in recent years which itself had made an impact on any individual charity organisations; the economy had been relatively subdued; there was high unemployment; market place competition was fierce; and the Inquiry also speculated that the community was becoming less trusting towards charity groups. The Government used this as leverage in defence of the poker machine impact, declaring that the charities problems begun before their introduction. It was their solid argument against paying adequate compensation to the charity organisations.
In other words, by then the State Government, which was already receiving machine tax of almost $150M a year, had become addicted.
And therein lies the root of the problem.