Posts Tagged ‘Mandatory Pre-commitment’

Wilkie blinks, Gillard baulks – clubs smile, reformers cry – punters punt.

In General Mish-Mash on January 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Today’s news is that the proposition to impose mandatory pre-commitment on poker machine gambling is, at a minimum, to be deferred.

In the background you might be able to hear the collective sigh of relief from the pub and club world – in fact you may even hear a few cheers.

Whatever you can hear, if it is at all celebratory the sentiment is both premature and misplaced.

And the sighs of disappointment from those who want mandatory precommitment are equally premature and equally misplaced.

Let’s first deal with those who have hung their coats on mandatory precommitment (also noting that some want to augment this with reduced bet limits) – why is their disappointment misplaced?

Nick Xenophon & Andrew Wilkie - do they know?

Well, firstly, let’s get one thing out of the way – I am sure, deep down they want reform to reduce both the incidence and the impact of an addiction to gamble on poker machines.  (I don’t know why they seem not to care if your addiction is gambling on games with dealers (blackjack, roulette etc), on sportsbetting, on any form of racing, on the stockmarket, or online – all of which can lead to devastating results for addicted individuals and other affected parties – anyway this is a topic that we can (and they have) put on the backburner for the moment).

… anyway, they want to help problem machine players and they have a belief that mandatory precommitment will do the job. This is a problem. The belief they have is not support by anything except the belief itself. It may well be a belief that seems logical and sensible but it remains a belief founded in thought experiments. (It is true that Einstein used thought experiments too – though I doubt this subject matter is as conducive to this method of investigation, and I also doubt they have either the tools or the deftness of an Einstein).

I keep straying from the point I want to make …

Their disappointment is misplaced because they are now presented with an opportunity to find evidence to support their hypothesis and thus build a stronger, more compelling argument for the case that mandatory precommitment on poker machines will have a substantial impact on the incidence and impact of addicted gambling. They have an opportunity to challenge their hypothesis in a scientific way. And as a result, rather than depend on the vilification methodology they have used to date, they could rely on the evidence.

If they are really, really concerned about the plight of compulsive gamblers their search during this hiatus could be for ANY solution to the punters plight, that is based on evidence.

The passion they have shown could and should be diverted into helping the lot of the addict instead of making assumptions and using those assumptions to support vilification of a community sector that by and large is both genuine and concerned.

My assumption is that they are fair dinkum in wanting to help – here is a hiatus during which they can prove their motivation is for the (addicted) gambler rather than simply being anti-gambling. (Note: Anti-gambling has not been successful in curtailing addicts in any precinct in any period of history.)

OK, what about the providores of gambling, machine gambling that is.

These guys have been understandably on the defensive … and, to be fair to them, the effort to paint them into a corner has been sustained and relentless over a long period of time.

Nevertheless, the public believes this defensiveness will extend to resorting to any means in order to protect their gambling revenue – even if that revenue is the result of the unassailable drive of an addict and leads to great misery. The public has this perception of the operators of poker machines.

(Man, even today there was an article about clubs putting on kids bingo in order to train the gambling behaviour for future harvesting – check out the story and have a look at the reader’s comments. The Daily Telegraph: “Help! Bingo’s got our babies.”)

The fact is that there is probably a small proportion of operators or employees who hold the type of value that encourages profiting from misery … even the private, entrepreneurial owners of pubs, whose personal wealth is determined by gambling revenue, as a rule, do not have this type of immorality. Indeed, many would believe that no matter how profitable a compulsive gambler may be in the short term – they are still bad for business in the long run.

The club industry, of course, does not generate private wealth. And those who are employed in this industry also, in general, do not want to gain from the misery of their members, patrons, and the wider community. In general, they look upon their role as community based organisations seriously and want to contribute positively to their community.

(I know some will assert that club managers are extremely well paid – but they are still paid a salary (sometimes with bonuses) and do not amass wealth the same way – or to the same extent – as the gaming entrepreneurs. Further, compared with business of comparable size they are generally not as well paid as may first seem.)

Nonetheless, any relief these industries may feel at today’s news, is almost certainly premature simply because the campaign to reform will not stop, Combine that with the public’s perception of operators and you know the crosshairs will be recalibrated soon enough and they will be in the sight lines of a higher calibre weapon.

And the industry sigh of relief is misplaced because in some ways they deserve to be in those crosshairs. They have failed to demonstrate, through their behaviour, that they are concerned about the issues surrounding gambling. And in the case of clubs, may of them have failed to convince even their own constituents that they are authentic community based organisations … and they are regarded with scepticism and cynicism.

In short, they talk about and make assertions as to the strength and priority of their community focus … but this shakes under scrutiny and questioning. Behaviour reveals priority.

This hiatus is an opportunity for them as well, to change their behaviour and take up a position that is authentically constructive for their communities.

When confronted with objections about proposals for change – the objections are almost always about the cost to undertake the changes necessary. Clubs need to remember that their is no financial cost to being committed – committed to understanding the problems, committed to understanding the impacts, committed to find solutions, and committed to being both authentic and relevant.

Commitment will generate behaviours related to the values they underpin. Hopefully, this will mean behaviours that are more constructive, have authenticity, and are relevant to constituents.  (And – lo and behold – these just might help build a stronger business).

There will be no need to stumble over responses to a grilling about gambling or interrogation about ethics, no need to blame others, no need to plead ignorance, no need to fight vilification with return vilification,  … because you will be real, you will be worthy of the privilege and responsibility you have to be the steward over the use of these products.

And won’t that be worthy of a sigh of relief.

My pessimism says that this delay will be used to intensify the wasteful battle – a battle that seems endless. More resources, resource that could be applied to the actual problem, will be burnt and the logs who are at loggerheads now will just be getting bigger splinters and become bigger pains in the arse … while the punters will continue to wear the arse out of their pants.

The Fitz Files, Gus, and Note 31 which becomes a Catch 22!

In General Mish-Mash, Mish-Mash of Wisdoms on October 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The Fitz Files  is entertaining to read, although it has a bit of the smart-alec tone.

Peter Fitzsimons, the writer, wants to astonish us with his wit and judgement. I am sure he wants us to laugh – and I often do. Every Saturday he ridicules, berates, lampoons and occasionally he gives a pat on the back.

The Red Bandanna Gang

It’s divide & ridicule! You either stand on his side admonishing some foolish profiled person – or you find yourself feeling the splash of the spray.

He seems to have that “you’re either with me or agin me” credo. A credo often surfacing in team sport.

Create a strong bond within the playing group – an unbreakable sense of duty to each other, potent emotional connections – and you have a powerful force. Some do this in ways that are inclusive and constructive. Others by exclusion, defining the entire rest of the world as a common enemy.

Fitz shepherds people into gangs that are out to own the morally high ground and to whip up indignation over anything he deems is deserving. Derision, outrage, and ridicule replace gang violence and street battles … but he does want you to join his gang.

In this weeks Fitz Files, Gus Gould is in the crosshairs. Here is the piece – Rabs! Gus! Your pokie rant’s a bit suss.

Which is interesting because Gus’ MO is very similar to Fitz’s – you’re one of us or you’re one of them.

His teams bond strongly.  They also develop a shared consciousness that the rest of the world is out to kill them.

Not just the opposing teams.

Anyone who is not pulling on a jersey. You’re either in the team or you are an enemy – enemies include administrators, accountants, boards, the sales teams, sponsors, events organisers, the media … you name it, if it can be a distraction, it is an enemy. There is a rich harvest for “motivation by seige”.

Of course by “team” I actually mean the more exclusive and restrictive modern sports entity  – “the playing group”. A concept undoubtedly developed because the “team” is far too inclusive … and far too restrictive when looking for enemies that can catalyse potent responses.

As I said, in the Fitz File world – you are either part of the lampooning and derision … or you are, by default, being lampooned or derided for not taking part. Gus has been “Fitzed”!

Gus can fight his own battles – very, very well. In a euphemistic nutshell, Fitz thinks Gus’ position as spokesperson on mandatory pre-commitment is imprudent and untenable. Undoubtedly Gus would disagree. It’s worthy of an argument I guess.

But, by firing bullets at Gus, Fitz also fires bullets at Panthers. He does this by a misleading and unfair misuse of numbers. This is how myth gets created. Fitz quotes Panthers 2010 Annual Report – creating a sense of credibility – what can he say, it’s Panthers own figures. So let’s look at the figures he uses:

2010 Revenue: $154m – Fitz Files got this right.

2010 Revenue from Poker Machines: $91m – another tick for Fitz.

2010 Profit/Loss: nearly $11m loss. The figure is correct. But the outrage from Fitz – “How on earth can this happen?” – is over the top. The losses are explained in the report and, and anyway, it is not unusual for businesses to post losses – even as high as around 7% of revenue. Especially when they have massive amounts allocated to depreciation.

Clearly, it is not good position … but “how on earth” can this be a jaw dropper given the information contained in the report.

And he doesn’t mention, of course, that these figures represent the aggregation of figures from 14 different venues across the state.

And then he comes out with this:

“What on earth falls under the $18.65m annual report entry “other expenses”.?”

I guess the red bandana momentarily slipped over his eyes and he did not see the “31” at the intersection of the row labeled “other expenses” and the column headed “Notes”. So, he did not look up Note 31 which lists 28 items that contributed to other expenses. Note 31 tells you “what on earth”, Fitzy.

He compares the percentage of “other expenses” with other clubs … but what he should be comparing is the item “other expenses” that appears in note 31 … that figure was $2.475m or 1.6% of revenue. Fitz’s figure had it at 12% of revenue. The exaggeration to create affect is only 650%.

Next he makes the amazing comment … amazing because he has already alluded to a big loss.

“And how come with all that moolah only $617,000 could be found for the juniors.”

Ahem! All that moolah!! Didn’t you just tell us they lost 11 million smackeroos? So, if losing money gives you heaps of moolah to spread around in acts of largesse, why would anyone worry about a GFC? Or stock market crashes. 

And your suggestion Fitz, would be to what?

Provide the juniors with $1.6m and post a $12m loss instead of an $11m loss. Geez, if that is so easy, why not give the juniors $50.6m? What’s an extra few mill between friends. I guess by your logic this will mean they have even more moolah to toss around.

You belted Panthers for making a loss and you belt them for not giving away more. That’s some catch that Catch 22! 

Maybe Panthers could have stopped the support for initiatives in the regions of Bathurst, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, or Albury and shift that “moolah” so the kids of Penrith benefit?

Jesus, how does Panthers get out of the iron grip of admonishment cast by someone whose arguments have the logical progession of the paradoxical works of M.C. Escher.

Ascending? Descending? Both - The Fitz Files in Art.

And it is not just Fitz who suffers from this …

Just about every argument about clubs these days has an extraordinary skew – almost to the point of being paradoxical. The skew mainly comes from looking at the revenue figures and treating them as profits.

If rational dialogue is to be had about the relevance of clubs in our communities, then this skewing has to stop. Any business needs to be modelled in a way that is sustainable and one that can be planned around – this can’t be done by creating myth.

Back to the Fitz attack:

Fitz, there is plenty of ammunition available to fire at Panthers. Why pull blanks and he dress it up as live ammo. I can’t understand it, there are exocet missiles just laying around waiting to be armed and launched.

Interestingly, again there is a similarity in the way Gus has approached the mandatory pre-commitment issue that has got under his skin enough for him to get under everyone else’s skin. Gus’ preference seems to be to throw rocks at the enemy. In this case those who advocate pre-commitment as a salve for problem gambling. Again, surprising because Gus is capable of delivering powerful and coherent argument. Instead he weakens his position by resorting to playing the man (and woman) instead of the issue of finding solutions for gamblers.

It would serve everyone better – especially problem gamblers – if commentators, these 2 included, examined the facts more carefully and toned down their exaggeration, personal attacks and histrionics.