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Poker News: June 23rd, 2010

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Copyright © Gold Coast

HEADLINE: Online pokies are a political gamble

YOU wonder about a sudden push to legalise online poker in Australia when our annual gambling losses are nudging $20 billion.

Sure, government rake-offs from an open slather on online betting could lift Prime Minister Rudd out of the mining tax mire.

But when it is easy to lose $1500 an hour on the poker machines, governments federal and state will remain under pressure to impose new gambling restrictions ... such as $1 pokie games or cheques for winnings over $300.

Even without new betting options regular poker machine players spend up to $8000 a year.

The Goss government (with subsequent regrets) introduced poker machines in Queensland after winning the 1989 election.

These days the number of poker machines in Queensland is capped at 47,000 and $50 and $100 notes cannot be fed into cash acceptors.

PM Rudd promised to crank up the attack on poker machines during the 2007 election campaign.

But with NSW and Victoria addicted to pokie taxes the Rudd plan stayed on the backburner.

Shame about the effects of problem gambling such as bankruptcy, crime, depression, relationship breakdown or suicide -- or that so-called community benefits when costs from problem gambling were deducted from tax revenue are rated as high as $11 billion a year.

Club revenue could be slashed by 30 per cent if a maximum $1 bet were slapped on poker machines.

Other restrictions proposed yesterday included more electronic poker machine warnings and updates about hourly and percentage losses.

The latest Australian Government Productivity Commission gambling report also raised the possibility of legalising online poker -- subject to 'strict probity standards' and harm minimisation measures including automated warnings about losing playing styles. The message seemed to be that if Australians were playing electronic poker illegally with online casinos overseas we should jump in for our own tax chop; not to mention protect the online poker addicts from more unscrupulous overseas operators.

The commission was less sympathetic to poker machines, proposing restrictions progressively introduced over six years.

Pokie players squander two thirds of the almost $20 billion lost gambling each year.

It wants players to set their own betting limits, have updated access to their betting history with measures to block identity fraud.

Poker machine turnover is falling in Queensland. When Treasurer Andrew Fraser presented his Budget this month he downgraded his poker machine tax receipts by $30 million for this financial year. This confirmed Gold Coast Bulletin reports that pokie turnover in some pubs had dropped 20 per cent.

National statistics suggest that 15 per cent of poker machine players have serious gambling problems. The real worry is these 15 per cent provide 40 per cent of poker machine turnover. Year 2016 should be interesting for gamblers.

By then, the Productivity Commission is insisting, poker machines will offer (a) upgrading playing pattern checks in all states (b) pre-committed playing limits (c) easier pre-commitments (d) actual cost of play (e) 'dynamic warnings' of harmful play (f) $1 play limits and (g) limits on cash and credit inputs.

The Bligh Government has not ruled out limiting the number of venues for poker machines if their number starts to increase in line with population. Current regulations allow clubs and pubs to transfer pokies between venues via sale or lease deals.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding wants more: poker machines should be restricted to casinos and racecourses, said Senator Fielding.

And if Mr Rudd really was serious about problem gambling in Australia he could fall back on federal corporations' powers to restrict or eliminate poker machines -- after the election, of course.

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on June 23rd, 2010

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