Posts Tagged ‘poker machines’

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.

War! What is it good for? Part II

In General Mish-Mash on July 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Ok! Ok!  (See today’s Daily Telegraph: NRL Tackled on pokies profits.)

The combatants keep ramming home their positions on the mandatory pre-commitment for people who want to play poker machines. It’s a knock ’em down, drag ’em out battle where each side questions – nah! insults – the integrity and veracity of the other.

The passion is wonderful – well, it would be wonderful if it could be used constructively.

Mr Xenophon has laid down the defining gauntlet. His goal is the complete eradication of poker machines from our society. It’s his legitimate right to take that position and fight that fight. He is a smart man, though, and he must realise that prohibition is a dangerous road. Not dangerous for him but very dangerous for those he wants to protect – those affected by problem gamblers.

In saying that … in a way he has it right – eradication of gambling will cause the eradication of problem gamblers. The ultimate harm minimisation measure of those who operate under prohibition is – eradication. If you had a problem arising from gambling in Chicago in the 1920’s, your problem would be quickly and effectively attended.

The Harm Minimisation Team

So, does Mr Xenophon really want poker machines deleted from our society? Well, he probably does – he has adopted the role of the patron saint of the problem gambler and his belief is that the machines create the problem. It is a deeply held belief.

I think he has a genuine concern for those affected by problem gambling, yet every (recovering) problem gambler that I ever met (and it has been many) knows full well that the moment they focus on the machines (or bookmaker or casino or …) as the cause of the problem, their recovery is in jeopardy.

Andrew Wilkie, I dunno about him … and probably never will. He claims his stance is steeped in his personal integrity – after all, he is prepared to lose his job over it! But really, is he just taking a giant punt here? Is he really dedicated to problem gamblers or is he just using the issue as collateral for his play for some sort of power? Questions I can’t seem to answer.

Jenny Macklin? I wonder will she insist that the Labor Party take a stand and demands the immediate removal of gaming machines from the Labor, Workers, & Union clubs dotted around the State. A starting point and leadership position.

Now, what about the other side of the argument?

The other side is defending, even their attacks have a defensive ring. Venues and operators feel they are being attacked – and defence is the natural response.

But have they recognised that some of their own behaviours have been provocative.? These behaviours may well be forced upon them by economic imperatives … nevertheless it is what the public witnesses, it is what they have to interpret.

The public, in general, regard machine game operators with some level of cynicism and scepticism – not because they operate machine games. No! But because of the way they operate machine games – the way the machines have become the focal point of attention.

At the venue I worked in for many years, the over-riding philosophy was one of generosity, a generosity of offer, a generosity to community, a generosity towards those in trouble and in need of help, a generosity and respect toward individuals and the value of people.

If you could encapsulate its philosophy in a single sentence it would be – to provide a venue where people could be entertained in a myriad of ways, at low cost, often without cost.

The prime objective was to ensure people enjoyed themselves and received value, irrespective of whether they played the poker machines.

As operating costs became tighter and tighter, as regulations became more stringent and more costly, as taxes rose … something had to give. The generosity receded. Events, venues, & facilities that offered distractions at low cost were reduced or cut and, naturally, the profile and importance of machines loomed larger to both the operator and the customer.

The community’s respect and admiration for this local icon (and many other venues) plummeted. The people in the community believed that the primary focus had become machines. They came to believe that because that is the behaviour they saw.

As you focus, so you behave.

So, both sides of this battle are focused on the machines. And no-one is focused on those that are suffering. (Nick, no matter how much you postulate that machines are the problem, every problem gambler knows that the real problem lies within and the machine is just an instrument.)

So, my question to all the combatants, and all affected by the combat, is –

“What would happen if all the resources, attention, and intelligence that are being applied to this war were diverted to attend to those who suffer (and those who could be identified as having a propensity to suffer) from the cruel and invisible addiction?”

Stop your bickering and politicising, stop focusing on the machines, start focusing on the job of making our world a better place for more people, start broadening the offering and being more generous … and especially spare a thought or two or three or more for those people who need help but you are using as political footballs.


Building Social Business

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm

This article was published in the May 2011 edition of club life: , the monthly magazine produced by ClubsNSW.

The article delves into the increasing levels of scepticism about NSW Registered Clubs. There is a lesson for all companies in this – the lesson is about ensuring corporate behaviour is congruent to the expressed values & purpose of the corporation. The body language of an organisation is the tell-tale sign for the consumer.

Bulding Social Businesses